Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 de PHEV has an all-electric range of 106 km, develops 700 Nm of torque, touches a top speed of 160 km/h in full-electric and 210 km/h with engine support and charges in 20 min. We explore why this is a better solution to the range anxiety problem.
There has been much talk across the automotive industry about the future of transportation being all battery-powered electric vehicles than fuel burners. Au contraire, how hard is it to notice the giant chasm of viability that sits between internal combustion vehicles and EVs! This gap can be bridged via plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), carrying both sides of the bargain to carefully deposit you on greener, electrically charged pastures. Simply put, PHEVs can be charged by an external power source or by an on-board engine/ generator running on fuel. This is where Mercedes-Benz EQ Power models can prove as game-changers, in terms of adopting a more practical approach towards electrification. The level of technical developments the EQ Power models carry is impressive, making them an ideal choice over internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts.
EVs VERSUS PHEVs
Although a sure-shot green mobility solution, electric cars have also brought about a fair share of confusion. Such vehicles are run by electricity stored in batteries, which are recharged by an external source. This effectively means altering the age-old practise of refuelling with petrol or diesel, and finding a power source to recharge the batteries. There is absolutely zero emission from the exhaust, and filling with electricity is a lot cheaper than paying for fossil fuels. However, the catch is you have to wait for a considerable amount of time for the batteries to charge, and experience range anxiety if you are caught short. Although solutions like DC fast charging are catching up, there are still range apprehensions among consumers. For example, Mercedes-Benz EQC all-electric will offer a range of 350 km at 80 % charge, but it will take more than 9 hr to charge from a standard AC outlet and will take 40 min through the correct DC charging point.
Now consider PHEVs: you drive on battery power, find a charging point to charge batteries and get going. Or alternatively, you use the on-board engine to generate power and recharge the batteries as you drive along. Everybody can agree that this is a lot more convenient and practical solution before range anxiety becomes a thing of the past.
The GLE 350 de will do 106 km (NEDC) range on a full charge, but will charge from 10-80 % in 20-30 min. And you do not have to stop your journey as the four-cylinder diesel will keep you moving seamlessly. It must be noted that range-extended EV (REEV) are PHEVs, but are series hybrid and only electric motors are used for sending power to the wheels. The on-board generator is used to only recharge the battery and not at all for propulsion. Hence, PHEVs can use electric power as well as an assisted engine to further increase efficiency.
HIGH ENERGY DENSITY BATTERIES VERSUS CO2 OUTPUT
Enhancing battery performance for modern generation of PHEVs, Mercedes-Benz EQ Power utilises batteries with advanced cellular chemistry. The company’s engineers have moved from lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePo) to lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt (Li-NMC) chemistry, enabling cell capacity to be increased from 22 to 37 Ah. This means that batteries can be more compact in design, which in turn frees up more space for rear seat passengers and increases the boot carrying capacity.
The GLE 350 de 4matic with its 31.2 kWh capacity is able to return 700 Nm total torque output with weighted CO2 emission of 29 g/km. This emission output might be higher, but Daimler’s environmental experts account for emissions and resource consumption across the vehicle life cycle. Regular charging of the high power battery pack brings CO2 emission down by 40 %. Careful calculations still result in a 45 % reduction in total emission in plug-in hybrid models against similarly equipped conventional drive models. The increased CO2 output during the manufacturing process of high density battery balances the scales in favour of lesser overall emission through regular all-electric use of the vehicle.
MERCEDES ‘ME CHARGE’ AND WALLBOX CHARGING EFFICIENCY
Since Mercedes-Benz plug-in hybrid drivers may opt for ‘me charging’ services, many advantages are included for convenience. The system runs through an app, or can be worked through the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment unit in the vehicle, with information on charging station or even navigate to the closest one. Additionally, speech recognition increases the ease of searching, charging and even paying, thus enhancing driver safety.
Compact plug-in hybrids can be charged via this at a 7.4 kW wallbox with alternating current (AC) within 1 hr 45 min from 10-100 % SoC (state of charge). With the faster direct current (DC), the charging time reduces to just 25 min from 10-80 % SoC. The water-cooled batteries weighing approximately 150 kg are supplied by the fully-owned Daimler subsidiary Deutsche Accumotive. Mercedes-Benz EQ Power models keep the driver informed about efficient driving tactics and train them for a route-based operating strategy. It accounts in navigation data, region topography, speed limits and traffic situation to plan the most efficient route, wherever possible.
Zero-emission electric vehicles are the future of motoring as they are much kinder to the environment and cheaper to run. For now, all the problems plaguing EV adoption cannot be overlooked. The government may introduce new policies and manufacturers will produce better products, but until an everyday consumer is convinced that transportation will be a seamless practise for all distances, EVs will be looked at with scepticism. PHEVs, on the other hand, can be readily adopted by car owners.
The high density batteries in Mercedes-Benz EQ Power models offer generous all-electric range for most urban use, and is supported by an efficient IC engine to stay mobile after the batteries run out. Sure, they carry some CO2 baggage with them, which can be considerably reduced by regular charging. Until everybody is convinced that they will not be stranded in the middle of a journey with long waiting hours, the little IC engines in PHEVs will be able to convince regular drivers to accept charging routines as part of the bargain.
TEXT: Abhijeet Singh