Late last week Mercedes-Benz unveiled plans for the S400 BlueHybrid which, "unless someone else jumps in first. . .will be the first production automotive hybrid in the world to use a lithium ion battery." We first covered the concept in September, but now more details have become available. The vehicle will be powered by a 3.5 Liter V-6 gas engine and a 15KW electric generator/motor. In concept models shown previously, the lithium ion battery (which is significantly smaller than the nickel-metal hydride (NIMH) batteries hybrids currently use) was "small enough to be mounted under-hood so that it doesn't intrude on trunk space." This has several advantages, including enabling engineers to " integrate the battery with the vehicle climate control system to regulate its temperature ensuring optimal performance."
Of course, given that the S400 is a large, heavy, powerful vehicle, even with the lithium ion/hybrid drivetrain the BlueHybrid will not be the most efficient vehicle on the road. Just what kind of mileage will it get? Find out after the fold.According to a European standard for measuring fuel economy, known as the New European Driving Cycle (which averages city and highway driving) the BlueHybrid will get 29.8 miles per gallon. Of course, a Toyota Yaris, which is far less expensive, gets 40 miles per gallon on a non-hybrid drivetrain. Still, the S400 is the flagship of the Mercedes lineup, so it's great to see improvements in its efficiency. And better yet, this vehicle will actually be available to consumers (at least those that will be able to produce its undoubtedly hefty price tag) " in calendar 2009 in both North America and Europe along with the ML450 hybrid. The ML450 also uses the 3.5L V-6 but it's combined with the two-mode hybrid system. More Mercedes models using the mild hybrid will be launched eventually as well including diesel hybrids."
The real innovation here is the deployment of lithium ion battery technology in the vehicle. Until now, lithium ion batteries have dominated the consumer electronics market, but difficulties in adapting them to the rigors of automotive applications have forced manufacturers to stick with NIMH batteries. With Tesla already producing pure electric vehicles with the lighter and more efficient batteries, and Mercedes and others about to roll out hybrids that make use of them, it won't be long before we'll see them used more widely in automotive contexts.
See Also: ::Mercedes-Benz to Market an Emissions Free Vehicle, ::Lithium Polymer Batteries, a Review, ::Hygenius: Mercedes' Fuel Cell Hybrid, ::Mercedes-Benz Offers Leather Free Option in All Cars, ::Top 12 Greenest and Meanest Cars in the USA and ::Nano-Tech Batteries May Rival Lithium-Ions in Hybrids