Mercedes confirms plan for diesel-hybrid E-Class

Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that a diesel-hybrid version of the upcoming E-Class is in the cards.

The new gas-engine E-Class will arrive this summer, while the new-generation E 350 BlueTec diesel is slated to come to Canada next March.

Joachim Lindau, head of overall vehicle testing at Mercedes-Benz AG, confirmed the hybrid plans at a press preview earlier this month for the 2010 E-Class, which will have the same 3.5-litre V-6 and 5.5-litre V-8 engines as the current model.

The upcoming diesel engine will be a new design that uses urea injection and a more potent exhaust emissions system; the AdBlue exhaust-scrubbing additive will need to be replenished at every oil change. No AdBlue fluid change, no squeaky-clean emissions — if the driver ignores warnings of low AdBlue levels, the car is programmed not to start.
That's true of all Benz diesels with the latest BlueTec clean-diesel system. It was the only way Mercedes-Benz could assure American legislators that BlueTec drivers would continue to replenish the system, keeping emissions clean even as the vehicles age.

The new E350 3.0-litre V-6 BlueTec will offer 210 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, or about the same power as the current E320 diesel, which is rated at 9.0 L/100 km city and a miserly 6.1 on the highway. Like the rest of the E-Classes coming for 2010, Mercedes-Benz Canada is launching the diesel E with a visually aggressive AMG Sports package as standard equipment.

Details of the further-out diesel-hybrid E are still sketchy. Although Lindau confirmed that an E-Class diesel hybrid is in the works, neither timing nor engine size were discussed.

However, Germany's DPA news service reported that a diesel-electric ML SUV would make 340 hp from its 3.0-litre V-6, while at least one online rumour had the ML diesel-hybrid on sale in North America by the end of this year.

Mercedes-Benz has shown various diesel-electrics at different auto shows over the last two years, including a diesel-hybrid S-Class, which produced 265 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque from a hybridized BlueTec V-6. A smaller four-cylinder diesel-hybrid engine was also previewed in the Vision GLK concept at last year's Geneva auto show; it boasted some eye-popping numbers: 224 hp, 413 lb-ft of torque and an estimated average of 40 mpg — that's 5.9 L/100 km.

'Stunning' sales numbers shock analyst

"Stunning is the only word I can think of," said shell-shocked auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers in his review of February sales numbers in Canada, which showed that GM had lost its traditional top spot to Chrysler, even tumbling behind Ford.

He noted that GM had not lost the monthly sales race in this country since at least 1949, and perhaps even longer than that. "I suspect you have to go back to the early 1900s to find a month when GM was not at least in second place."

The three Detroit Three subsidiaries were within 542 units of each other, so it was really a three-horse nose-hair finish that could have gone to any of them. But the historic significance remains: the largest car company in the country — by employees, dealers and vehicle owners, if not February new-vehicles sales — could no longer maintain its generations-long hold on the sales crown in Canada.

Chrysler seemed an unlikely candidate to depose the sales king, with its own serious financial issues well-documented in appeals by both companies for billions of bailout dollars to governments north and south of the border.

Toyota seemed to be the most threatening contender, noted DesRosiers, but it finished in fourth place in February.

The Detroit Three units collectively lost 37 per cent in sales, compared to a loss of 17 per cent for offshore-based auto makers.

In the United States, GM managed to retain its best-selling company title with sales of 127,296 vehicles, with Toyota coming in second at 109,583, followed by Ford and Chrysler.

Buick looking to adopt Opel platforms

The close vehicle-sharing relationship between Saturn and its German cousin Opel could be reflected in future Buicks, Autoweek magazine reported this week, although the models would more like cousins rather than identical twins.

Opel platforms are being looked at as the basis of future Buick sedans, Buick vice-president Susan Docherty said, although there could also easily be Buicks not sourced from any of its European divisions, such as the Enclave crossover or new LaCrosse sedan (called the Allure in Canada).

Even if Opel is eventually sold, as GM is trying to do, the company will likely keep an alliance with any potential buyer to keep the currently planned platforms in place, an unnamed source told the magazine.

Docherty also noted that, as Pontiac's lineup is slimmed down, Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealers will receive more sedans to keep the channel "well-rounded" with four-doors and crossovers.

Electric Tesla Roadster coming to Canada

The Tesla Roadster is coming to Canada by the end of this year, the company said this month; Canadian orders are being taken for deliveries expected in the fourth quarter.

At first, the cars will come from regional centres in New York and Seattle that will be up and running by mid-year, the company said. But it hopes to establish Canadian dealers in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, likely at some point after Tesla has something more to offer than the slinky little two-seat sports car.

Getting enthusiasts and, soon after, the general public excited about electric cars was probably the Tesla Roadster's greatest accomplishment, as the Lotus Europa-shaped convertible's sizzling 0-96 km/h time of 3.9 seconds helped garner the little car tons of media exposure.

Canada could be a showcase country for Tesla, because the majority of electricity across the country is from renewable resources, the company said. "An EV recharged from the current Canadian grid, on average, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 85 per cent compared to an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle," according to the release announcing Canadian sales, with about 80 per cent in Ontario coming from hydro or nuclear sources.

"In hydro-dominant British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba, the reduction would be an impressive 98 per cent."

The cars cost $109,000 (U.S.), and although a Canadian price has not yet been confirmed, it will reflect "exchange rates at that time (of delivery)."

The World's Most Powerful Hybrid Car

At Geneva, Nissan debuted the Infiniti Essence concept, a hybrid with 600 hp from the combined output of a V6 twin turbo and electric motor

To celebrate 20 years as a brand Infiniti has produced a stunning concept car for the 2009 International Motor Show in Geneva. The Infiniti Essence is the world's most powerful Hybrid car with a total of 600 horsepower combined output from its V6 twin turbo and electric motor. The luxury sports car hybrid offers enormous power on the open road and zero emission driving in urban settings.

In specification the car looks very much like a hybrid version of Nissan's GT-R. (Infiniti is a Nissan owned brand) With a 3.7 liter V6 DOHC Twin Turbo VQ based engine (VQ37DETT) putting out 434 hp (320 Kw) in a rear wheel drive FM (Front Midship) platform currently used in modified form in both the Nissan GT-R, 350Z and Infiniti V36. An additional 158 hp (116 Kw) and 500 Nm comes from the twin clutch mounted Disc type electric motor giving a total of 592 hp (435 Kw). No combined torque figure was released by Infiniti but it should be in the region of 1088 Nm (802 Ft/lb).

Strictly a two seater, the front-engined rear wheel drive super-luxury coupe is Infiniti's first super-performance car with design cues that Infiniti says will distinguish its production cars of the coming years. The Essence is a real styling exercise featuring razor sharp lines, side windows that appear to be resting on a ledge and a steeply raked windscreen that combines as a sun roof and extends all the way to the B pillar while the car rides on 22-inch wheels. The Essence also comes complete with Bespoke Louis Vuitton luggage.

The petrol engine and electric engine can work independently or together as a "parallel" hybrid system. At urban speeds the Essence operates as a pure battery electric vehicle. A lower trunk mounted laminated lithium ion battery supplies power to a new type of electric motor called the 3D Motor. The motor is a BLDC design that maximizes torque density to meet tough requirements on size and power output. The result is a particularly slim, disk-shaped motor that has twice the torque of a conventional unit. Its design was achieved by 3D magnetic field analysis to optimize the layout of the electromagnetic coils and permanent magnets. The motor is positioned between the engine and transmission and provides 158bhp (116 Kw). The 3D Motor operates in both propulsion and power regeneration modes to recapture braking energy to keep the battery pack charged up.
600 hp + 30 MPG

Optimized energy usage across the widest possible range of driving conditions is guaranteed by two separate clutches which "switch in" the motors as required. It is a system that needs no torque converter and the result is a 600 hp sports car with combined fuel economy of 8 liters / 100 km (30 US MPG).

The Essence also previews some next-generation collision avoidance safety features. Distance Control Assist (DCA) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) systems are available in today's production Infinitis but the Essence adds Side Collision Prevention (SCP) and Back-up Collision Prevention (BCP) to extend the anti-collision shield all the way around the car.

With SCP, when the driver decides to change lanes, side-mounted sensors activate a warning if an approaching vehicle is detected in the driver's intended lane. A yaw mechanism is then activated through brake control of individual wheels to help prevent a potential collision. Back-up Collision Prevention works in a similar way, sensing a vehicle behind, giving the driver a warning but then, if the warning is not heeded, activating the brakes automatically.