Daimler Research & Development Chief Discusses Electric Cars, PHEV Profitability & More

SEP 26 2015 BY MARK KANE 26

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Plug-In Hybrid

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Plug-In Hybrid

An interesting interview with Daimler Research & Development Chief Thomas Weber was recently published on the MotorTrend blog.

First of all, Weber revealed that about half of M-B’s R&D annual budget ($1.65 billion out of $3.3 billion for Mercedes cars) goes on CO2 reduction. That’s millions every day.

To lower CO2, the automaker is improving efficiency by:

  • using more efficient engines
  • more efficient transmissions (like new nine-speed)
  • friction reductions
  • low-resistance tires
  • aerodynamic optimization
  • lightweight body-in-white
  • electrification / hybridization / new battery concepts

They are also playing with hydrogen fuel cells:

“Fuel-cell research is also included in his CO2-reduction basket. “We stay committed to fuel cells. Nobody knows if today’s type of battery EV will pay off in the end—the cars are OK but not the infrastructure.”

The second important part is about why they are so focused on alternative powertrains and includes a discussion on whether on not plug-in hybrids profitable for Daimler. The answers are that regulations forced them, but they hope to attract consumers after introducing such cars on the market and plug-in hybrids are profitable, although less so than conventional models:

“On the subject of alternative powertrains, does Weber think people buy them because they want them and want the fuel savings or because of the government incentives? He pauses. “I would say so far it’s more driven by regulation than the customer side. But I think we have to launch now so the customer will experience it. If you experience the smoothness of pure-electric zero emission in restricted areas with the drivability of an e-motor, then it might in the future be the drivetrain of choice. Why not? And if there is in addition subsidies or restricted areas where you can only go if you have a zero-emission car, in this combination we are sold out on our C-Class plug-in. We have to increase battery supply and production.” But do those things make money? “Well yes, of course the profitability of a non-plug-in version is better, but we are earning money with these kind of [PHEV] vehicles.”

Source: MotorTrend blog

Categories: Daimler, Mercedes

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26 Comments on "Daimler Research & Development Chief Discusses Electric Cars, PHEV Profitability & More"

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I guess the people over at Mercedes-Benz have not seen the explosion of charging stations in the last two years. You can pretty much go all over Europe or in the USA with the current stations that are in place with a little planning.

+1

If they think the infrastructure to charge EVs is difficult or pensive, why would they think it is not 10 X more so for Hydrogen?

GSP

Thats not the kind of explosion he meant

I keep hearing about these restricted areas. But I’ve yet to hear of such a place. Is there really some place you are only allowed to drive with zero emissions?

London

Nope. There is no such thing as a zero emission only zone in London.

And there are no plans to introduce such zone.

electric-car-insider.com

Paris, although not always, just when the smog is really bad. Paris mayor has committed to a total ban.

Its an emerging trend, will probably be more widely adopted all over the world.

Its getting harder to ignore the science on the link between air quality and health. The health effects – and costs – can be very significant.

electric-car-insider.com

They are not Zero Emissions Zones, but they are Low Emissions Zones.

“The Mayor of London announced establishment of a Low Emission Zone which came into effect on 4 February 2008 covering almost all of Greater London – the largest such zone in the world. London currently has levels of air pollution among the worst in Europe”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-emission_zone

Lists other cities.

I don’t know of any area’s where there is a total ban but there are area’s that are restricted like hov lanes or Paris where on high pollution days they restrict the number of ICE cars coming in, I think via an odd and even licence plate system, I think there are a number of other cities allowing ev’s preferential acess to bus lanes and others are limiting the number of licence plates issued to ICE vehicles. London charges non-plugin drivers to drive in the centre, more of an incentive than a restriction but the system is in place that would allow them to stop ICE vehicles entering the city, they could ban ICE vehicles tomorrow with no need for any hardware change what so every.

“Nobody knows if today’s type of battery EV will pay off in the end—the cars are OK but not the infrastructure.”

The “infrastructure” will be in my garage for 99% of my trips.

This model works for most households in the US, but in Europe (as well as Asia) a high percentage of car owners don’t have a garage. See e.g. slide 15 in this flyer:

http://www.ev-charging-infrastructure.com/media/downloads/inline/brian-mcbeth-daimler.1291372915.pdf

That is true, but the fast charging infrastructure has just arrived at a point that a trip across Europe is doable. This summer I did Southeastern France > Alpes > Switzerland > Alsace > Luxemburg > Belgium > Holland and back via Paris and Auvergne. It worked without charging pain, but you have to do research before leaving to figure out the best charging stations.

Sure, a few hundred chargers may be enough to support the occasional road trip for the early adopters. But what happens if the 20-50% of the population who don’t own a garage start hogging the public chargers for their daily driving? Unless charging times are brought down to a few minutes, I don’t see how this could possibly scale. Of course lots of slow chargers in public garages and work places will help to some extent, but someone needs to pay for those too.

Braben asked:

“But what happens if the 20-50% of the population who don’t own a garage start hogging the public chargers for their daily driving?”

Seems rather pointless to worry about that. As the EV revolution progresses and demand for EV chargers in parking spaces increases, apartment owners and city parking lot owners will install chargers to meet the demand. And cities will install curbside chargers in residential areas where people park on the street.

I just can’t see a significant number of people relying on public chargers for everyday charging of a BEV. Very few people who don’t have access to a reserved parking place with a charger will buy one. Sure, there are always a few knuckleheads, but most people don’t go out of their way to make things difficult for themselves.

In the meantime, until slow charge points are found anywhere people park, there will continue to be a market for gasmobiles.

“And cities will install curbside chargers in residential areas where people park on the street.”

I have a hard time imagining this, given that cities are even building back parking meters in favor of those centralized “pay stations”. How are they supposed to fund the installation of ubiquitous curbside chargers?

“I just can’t see a significant number of people relying on public chargers for everyday charging of a BEV. Very few people who don’t have access to a reserved parking place with a charger will buy one.”

That’s the point. With the current technlogies, EVs are simply not ready to replace conventional cars. The only way I can see how to solve this is to make charging similarly fast as filling up at a gas station.

I think the difference between “doable” and “easy” is big.

Yeah, I’m ‘Irked’ when I hear these auto executives , first Carlos Ghosn, who is deflecting blame for his small, deteriorating battery situation is having on Leaf sales, and now this guy, who makes 20 mile range, and typically 8 mile range PHEV’s, say we need “MORE INFRASTRUCTURE!!!!”.

Meanwhile Chevy goes merrily along and puts a 53 mile battery in the new, very low cost Volt. Their innocent ‘mistake’ of making the battery too large (3 miles better than their ‘goal’) is 37 1/2% of the range of those 5 figure Daimler models.

er… 6

As much as I personally dislike the volts 4 seat limit and how the 2014 version was driving, I just met someone that commutes 30 miles each way a day, and she charges on both ends and has refilled gas only exactly one time in the last 1000 miles driven. That is impressive.

Buth then You will find zealots claiming that this car have 1000 MPG 😛

Hope lawmakers will disalow for car oem to disclose MPGs when car use electicity! (Yeah Chevy was also boasting MPG… in modes where no Gallons are burned)

The EPA sticker already shows a PHEV’s MPG rating while using gas and a seperate MPGe number when using electricity.

For the 2016 Volt the sticker on the car when you buy it shows 106 MPGE /42 MPG. There is no deception there.

HAHA, well, admittedly no intentional deception.

But in line with what you say, MPGE is a convenient figure to compare EV to EV.

Waiting on my model III from Tesla, or a 2017 Leaf. Both great cars.

Tesla 3 compares to Nissan Leaf like Audi A4 Quattro compares to Volkswagen Golf TDI.

“Weber revealed that about half of M-B’s R&D annual budget ($1.65 billion out of $3.3 billion for Mercedes cars) goes on CO2 reduction.”

At $1.65 billion per year, that’s $8.25 billion dollars in Five years. If they were spending this kind of money, it seems like the Mercedes Benz average mpg would be a lot higher than 22.3mpg.

Tesla’s Gigafactory is quoted at $5 billion but that’s over a 10 to 20 year period. The startup costs on the Gigafactory is not even 1/2 that. An average factory retooling is around $2 billion. If Mercedes Benz was spending $8.25 billion / 5 years, they could have already built 2 battery Gigafactories and retooled 2 factories to make cars similar to Tesla (all electric vehicles).

I’m having a hard time believing they’re spending that much money on CO2 reduction.

Here’s a list of Mercedes Benz mpg by model:
Model City MPG Highway MPG Average MPG
CLA250 26 38 32
CLA45 23 31 27
C250 22 31 26.5
C350 20 28 24
C63 AMG 13 19 16
E400 20 29 24.5
E400 4Matic 20 28 24
E550 18 26 22
CLS400 coupe 20 30 25
CLS400 4Matic 19 26 22.5
CLS550 Coupe 17 26 21.5
CLS550 4Matic 17 25 21
AGM CLS63 16 22 19
S550 4Matic 16 24 20
AMG S63 Coupe 15 23 19
AMG S65 Coupe 13 20 16.5
AMG GT S 16 22 19

22.32352941 Fleet Average

Of course they could build a “gigafactory”, or perhaps even a “terafactory”. But perhaps they simply don’t believe in Tesla’s approach?