High-performance Meets Environmental Technology
Mercedes-Benz AMG, the high-performance tuner division of Mercedes-Benz, finds itself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Known for its brutally powerful gasoline engines, AMG is now faced with stringent new emissions standards imposed by the European Union.
The EU’s latest CO2 emissions rules spell out that Mercedes’ parent company Daimler must meet the goal of reducing average CO2 output to 101g/km (101 grams per 100 kilometers) by 2020. In
that year, 95 percent of all Daimler European sales volume will need to comply, but in 2021, all of its sales volume, including Mercedes AMG vehicles, will need to comply. Failure to do so will result in hefty fines.
So, how will AMG solve the problem?
In an interview with the British automotive magazine Autocar, the German automaker’s head of research and development, Thomas Weber, said that hybrid AMG performance cars could be on sale by 2020.
“We haven’t done it so far, because right now the customer wouldn’t buy it,” Weber said. “AMG customers tell us they want the sportiest performance option available in any given sector of the performance market. We don’t know when they will be ready for hybrid.
But in our development department, we are already planning for the time when we will have to offer them something special. We have to be prepared that, by 2020, it could be necessary to introduce an AMG hybrid.”
In reference to the EU mandates Weber said, “Every car line has to reduce fuel consumption — even AMG. No one part of our business can be carried on the back of another.”
Possible Hybrid Powertrains
During Autocar’s interview, Weber pointed to the hybrid technology being considered.
“A simple e-boost solution could help us to add power and regenerate energy by braking,” he said. “It also has the advantage of already being in large-volume production. The system has to be light and cheap.”
The “e-boost” Weber referred to is Mercedes-Benz’s hybrid system. It uses a small lithium-ion battery and electric motor that adds power and a regenerative braking feature. Plus, the system has the benefit of already being in volume production. Mercedes already offers hybrid models including the S550e and is introducing the plug-in hybrid C350e and the GLE 550e SUV in the U.S. this year (2016). The company has plans of introducing at least 10 new plug-in hybrids by 2017. That should give AMG engineers enough time to adapt the system to their high-powered cars.
While the hybrid system can help AMG reduce emissions to meet EU regulations, it doesn’t appear capable of providing the power that’s synonymous with AMG. So there must be something else.
Weber also told Autocar that AMG is prepping to offer something “special” by 2020. Could that special something be sourced from motorsports indicated by Weber when speaking to Australian journalists earlier this year?
“There is room for something which is more leaning to boost and energy harvesting and a role model could be the F1 story. It’s a little bit different than the hybrid concept,” he said.
Later, at the Paris Motor Show, the R&D boss was more specific when speaking with Drive.com. “There is an electrical module [coming] on board to improve efficiency developed from Formula 1,” Weber said.
“These kind of ‘power hybrids’ are a completely new definition and will be important because I don’t believe the AMG guys will argue how many kilometers they can go purely on electric. They will only ask [about] power and fun to drive in combination with acceptable fuel economy levels.”
What Mercedes model will be AMG’s first-ever hybrid is anyone’s guess. As for what the drivetrain will consist of, Weber’s hints indicate it will most likely be an AMG-specific mild hybrid system. And, after the first one, look for something derived from Formula 1 to keep Mercedes’ hot rod division’s performance reputation intact.
Automobile Electrification Is Here To Stay
The automotive world is changing at an accelerating rate. Carmakers around the world are rushing to add batteries and electric motors to their vehicles, either to pair them with gasoline engines or to offer pure battery-powered models (Mercedes does have two pure EVs in the U.S.—the Smart ED and B-Class B250e and had AMG dabble in this territory with the 751 hp SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive a couple years ago). In either case the incentive is to avoid fines for not meeting government mandates for fuel economy or emissions reductions.
Mercedes AMG will not offer the first performance cars that cross to the ranks of hybrid power. Porsche’s Panamera S E-Hybrid sports sedan has been on sale for more than a year as has BMW’s i8, and Acura is now accepting orders for its all-new NSX hybrid supercar.
And there’s more to come. Reports suggest BMW will use a hybrid powertrain for the next M5, the next Nissan GT-R is rumored to get an electrified boost with tech sourced from Nissan’s Le Mans LMP1 racer and, OMG, a hybrid or all-electric Porsche 911 may be on the way.
No, the internal combustion engine isn’t going away, it’s just going to share power duties with batteries and electric motors.
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