Car news

06 March 2014

Mercedes to build all-electric S-Class

Battery-powered Benz to follow plug-in hybrid. And is a convertible S-Class on the way?

Vijay Pattni
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Mercedes-Benz currently builds an S-Class that uses a combination of a small diesel engine and a small electric motor. It emits just 115g/km of CO2.

In the future, Mercedes-Benz plans to build an S-Class that uses a combination of electric motor and... well, just that. A full electric S-Class Benz. Welcome to the World of Tomorrow.

At the Geneva Motor Show, TopGear.com grabbed a few moments with the chief of Merc's large cars, Dr Uwe Ernstberger, who confirmed to us that while an electric S-Class isn't really a correct fit for now, "a complete electric car will be done in the future."

Problem is - and has always been - the battery packs. "We have to work on the capacities of the batteries to get a better package in the car," Dr Ernstberger said. "Because you do not want to lose all the comfort features of an S-Class for transporting a battery only.

"First of all we'll have the plug-in hybrid, where you can drive between 25km to 30km on electric power [only]. We want to use a battery to support electric driving in a closed city like London, and we use the combustion engine for driving outside the city."

But the future, according to MB, will be electric. And autonomous. "I think the S-Class is at the very top of the movement of autonomous driving," says Ernstberger, "but the question is how far do we go in the short term, not only technically, but also legally, to let the car drive by itself?" Ah yes: the thorny issue of who's actually in control of - and therefore responsible for - a car that drives itself.

"We always have to make sure the driver is the person who is responsible for the car," Ernstberger continues. "We have to make it clear that at higher velocities - over 50/60kph - the driver is responsible."

Don't forget, the current S-Class - as TG found out - can essentially drive on its own: it can recognise lanes, signs, the car in front, decide when to accelerate, brake and steer. "We have to fix a decision as to how far we get in the next few years," Dr Ernstberger notes.

However, when pushed on the variants of the S-Class we'll see in the next few years, he brushed off TG.com's persistent questioning about that much-rumoured S-Class Cabriolet.

"I cannot comment on that. Definitely we will have different varieties with the S-Class line up. We already have several convertibles and we are very successful with these, but we do need to discuss these things in detail and decide whether or not we should do it."

Gordon Wagener, head of Mercedes-Benz design, was a little more forthcoming. "We already have such a big beautiful coupe [the new S-Class Coupe], so let rumours of an S-Class Cabriolet rise," he hinted. "I'm not confirming or denying them, but it would be great to have a big, top, luxury cabriolet. It makes sense for us. Will we do it? Let's see."

As for the demise of Maybach and the space left for an even plusher S-Class to fill the gap, Dr Ernstberger again played a straight bat. "There are always ideas about going further and showing additional comfort features," he said. "So in the future maybe you'll see S-Class models that push the sense of luxury more than we currently have.

"But we will talk again when the time is right..."

Tags: geneva 14, s class, mercedes, mercedes benz