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April 15, 2009

Mercedes-Benz Offers Hybrid with Lithium-Ion Battery at a $12K Premium

Mercedes-Benz is now taking orders in Germany for its S 400 Hybrid, the first production hybrid vehicle in the world to feature a lithium-ion battery pack, and the company is charging a premium of more than $12,000 for the hybrid system. Mercedes-Benz based its hybrid on the S 350 luxury sedan, which sells for 76,160 Euros, or about $100,932. The basic price for the S 400 Hybrid is 85,323 Euros, or about $113,088, a premium of $12,156 above the cost of the S 350. Considering the anticipated high cost of lithium-ion batteries, the premium isn't excessive. For comparison, Ford Motor Company is charging premiums of $8,000-$9,400 for its new hybrid sedans, which feature standard nickel-metal-hydride batteries. The comparable premium for the S 400 Hybrid bodes well for upcoming plug-in hybrids, which will depend on much larger battery packs made with lithium-ion batteries. The S 400 Hybrid combines a V6 engine with a 15-kilowatt motor to achieve a fuel economy of nearly 30 miles per gallon (mpg). See the recent Mercedes-Benz press release on the S-Series pricing and the earlier press release on the S 400 Hybrid technology.

Mercedes-Benz first unveiled the S 400 Hybrid at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, but the company chose to debut another hybrid at the New York International Auto Show, which runs through April 19. The Mercedes-Benz ML 450 Hybrid is a sport utility vehicle with a V6 engine that achieves the performance of a V8. Unlike the S 400 Hybrid, the ML 450 Hybrid features a liquid-cooled nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. Specifically designed for the U.S. market, the SUV achieves a fuel economy of 21 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. See the Mercedes-Benz press release.

Photo of a four-seat car with crossover styling and two gull-wing doors. The large doors are open, and the vehicle sits on a display turntable, with large video screens in the background.

Why are gull-wing doors so popular for concept vehicles but so rarely used in production? The Hyundai Nuvis concept combines its gull wings with a hybrid system that draws on a lithium polymer battery pack. Enlarge this photo.
Credit: Hyundai

While plenty of electric vehicles and hybrids are on display at this year's New York International Auto Show, relatively few of those are new vehicle debuts. Adding a rare bit of novelty to the green car displays at the show was Hyundai, which unveiled the Nuvis hybrid concept. The Hyundai Nuvis combines a 2.4-liter engine with a 30-kilowatt motor, with energy storage provided by a lithium polymer battery pack, which Hyundai claims to be superior to lithium-ion batteries. The crossover vehicle achieves an estimated 34 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. The Nuvis provides an interesting package for the Hyundai "Blue Drive" hybrid system, but the company says the system is more likely to appear in a future version of the Hyundai Sonata. See the Hyundai press release and the New York International Auto Show Web site.

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