Mercedes-Benz is working on a brand new version of its B-Class hatchback that’s destined to go on sale in the U.S. late next year alongside a new A-Class hatchback, BLS four-door coupe and BLK compact crossover.
This family of small cars from the German luxury brand will all ride on a new front-wheel drive platform codenamed MFA (Mercedes Frontwheel Architecture), a design that drops the complicated and expensive ‘sandwich’ construction of the outgoing A- and B-Class models for a more conventional car-like design.
The new platform will also be flexible enough to allow the cars to feature a variety of different powerplants, but the MPV shape of the new B-Class in particular will allow the platform to accommodate a total of five different engine types. These will include conventional gasoline and diesel units, a natural gas engine, battery-powered and range-extended electrics, and even a hydrogen fuel cell powerplant.
The key is the taller ride height of the new B-Class compared to the rest of Mercedes’ small car range, which allows engineers to install battery arrays, additional fuel storage tanks or a hydrogen fuel cell stack under the floor. Note, the more exotic drivetrains, particularly the hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric versions, will almost certainly be limited in volume, but the idea of so many possibilities in one compact platform is intriguing.
We’re already reported on Mercedes’ ambitious fuel cell production plans on several occasions in the past, with the most recent report suggesting that the first mass produced version, most likely based on the new B-Class, will arrive in 2014.
Interestingly, Mercedes isn’t the only automaker looking at a handful of alternative powerplants being able to fit in a single platform. Audi’s new A3 range will also have multiple engine engine types to choose from, which you can read about in our previous story by clicking here.