Mercedes Pulling the Plug on Hybrid Technology
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The 2021 German International Motor Show was held in Munich last week, the first major European motor show since the start of the pandemic.
Set against the backdrop of environmental protests which have shut down roads across Germany, the Motor Show rebranded itself as a "mobility" showcase of e-bikes, electric scooters, electric buses, and other green transport options.
As a result, traditional car brands and their new model unveilings were largely ignored in favor of the latest innovations in EV tech.
So much so, that a fairly major announcement from Mercedes flew under the radar. Head of Development Markus Schäfer told journalists his company was stopping development of plug-in hybrid technology (PHEV), to focus solely on electric vehicles (EVs).
While Mercedes has already signaled its intent to go electric by 2030, the decision to curtail PHEVs before then has caught many by surprise. After all, Mercedes has invested many millions into plug-in hybrid technology over the last 10 years.
Why is Mercedes ditching hybrid technology?
Carscoops report that Mercedes' decision to stop investing in plug-in technology is ultimately a cost-saving measure.
Schäfer explained that having two drive units in one car, the very definition of "hybrid technology," is overly complicated and a "cost burden for the vehicle."
While Mercedes has invested a lot in hybrid technology, it doesn’t intend to throw good money after bad. Mercedes will instead focus its efforts on perfecting the technology behind electric cars.
With Mercedes’ stellar reputation for ingenuity, backed by quality German engineering, the company believes that it can compete with Tesla for the best luxury EVs on the market..
Will other automakers follow suit?
Mercedes’ decision to ditch hybrid tech makes sense, because the European Union has recently declared its intention to ban all gas powered vehicles, including hybrids, by 2035.
The U.S. government is also signalling its intent to accelerate the future of electric cars, with increased EV infrastructure spending and radical proposals like the Electric Vehicle Freedom Act, which will incentivize buyers to choose EVs over hybrids.
Plug-in hybrid technology was always intended to be transitionary, a stop-gap between gas and fully-electric cars. Mercedes is simply biting the bullet now, rather than being forced into it in a few years time.
Of course, they are not the only automaker to see the writing on the wall. Ford, GM, Volkswagen, and almost every other major car manufacturer are now turning their attention to improving their electric drivetrains.
There are a few dissenting voices though. Italian supercar brands Ferrari and Lamborghini are both pushing for an exemption to the EU bad, claiming their vehicles need hybrid technology to maintain performance levels, and more surprisingly, Toyota is also resisting the change.
In the latter’s case, it has invested too heavily in hydrogen technology to accept an all-electric future, and is actively lobbying against the speedy adoption of EVs.
Mercedes’ plug-in hybrid swan song
While Mercedes has made its intentions clear, Carscoops suggests we haven’t yet seen the last PHEV from the German auto giant.
Indeed, Mercedes has extremely high hopes for the much hyped AMG GT 63 S E Performance, due for release in 2022. It is a plug-in hybrid sports sedan, boasting a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine with an electric motor at the rear axle.
It could well be the last plug-in hybrid from Mercedes though, with the luxury brand going all in on electric vehicles well ahead of schedule.