According to a company official at Mercedes, there is a possibility that all upcoming S-Class sedans could be of the hybrid variety.
The move to make an entire hybrid model lineup would be the first by any major automaker in the world and likely not the last. With stricter regulations regarding emissions and fuel economy coming soon, automakers have to find ways to make some models more efficient. Large vehicles such as the S-Class may only be able to meet the new requirements by converting to hybrid powertrains throughout the model lineup.
Mercedes currently offers only one hybrid version of the S-Class, the S400 Hybrid. Priced at $87,950, the S400 is not the most expensive model in the lineup as most other hybrid versions tend to be. It comes in $3,650 less than the non hybrid S550.
The company will unveil an additional S-Class hybrid at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week. The vehicle, referred to as the Vision S500 Plug-in Hybrid will allow drivers to travel a distance of 18 miles using electric power only before the engine comes to life. Complete with a lithium-ion battery pack that can be recharged in about 2 hours, the hybrid system is compatible with many existing Mercedes platforms and according to company officials, could easily be retrofitted into many other models.
Mercedes spokesman Dan Barile said, "The modular configuration is so versatile that we're seriously exploring the possibility of equipping the next generation S-Class models entirely with hybrid drivelines."
Though hybrids models tend to be costly, the already high price tag of the S-Class lineup could easily absorb the additional cost of the hybrid powertrain. As co-founder of Plug in America Paul Scott said, "Let the rich people pay for the research and development and get the price down for the rest of us."
If Mercedes green lights the S-Class hybrid only lineup, others may follow. Meeting the fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg by 2016 has many automakers scrambling to find alternative propulsion methods and for now, hybrids may be the best answer.