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Mercedes S400: True Hybrid Car, or Just Greenwashing?

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Is this “greenwashing” phenomena affecting everybody lately? I understand we’re in the middle of a hybrid-crusade, and beginning with all the movie stars and all celebrities, everybody wants to produce and buy a hybrid car, but to bring out a hybrid car only to stick the “hybrid” green stamp on it seems a little overwhelmingly green-washing style.

Anyway, Mercedes Benz is going to release their luxury-class S400 BlueHybrid next year. This wonderful car, on the one hand, has a 3.5L V6 gasoline engine, delivering 299 horsepower and 283 lb-ft of torque, with an acceleration of only 7 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. Pretty impressive at first sight.

Also, the hybrid system features a small-not-to-disturb-anything Li-Ion battery which captures the energy from the regenerative braking and boosts the S400 at low speeds.

Now, don’t imagine the battery will drive the S400 all by itself, or that the car somehow features an “all-electric” mode, like the Prius does. No. It sucks up 7.9L of gas/100km (that’s 29mpg) combined, and releases 190g/km CO2.  What’s to be recognized is that this is still 20% under the standards of the S350 gas-only engine. It’s better.

When you stop at the light, the engine will shut itself off, and will start as soon as you hit the pedal (with a quick push buffered by the Li-Ion battery).

Now, I don’t say this is a bad car… by the contrary, Mercedes Benz makes some of the best cars in the world, and this one is even better than the “unconscious” gas-only cars. I also understand that this car is not for the average Joe who lives, works and commutes daily for feeding his family, and most of all, it is not for saving gas money, because the customers buying it have a lot of them. What I don’t like is that Mercedes didn’t put a plug-in option, a bigger battery, and didn’t equip the car with an all-electric mode, like everybody is starting to do today. At least, they could have named it “economic luxury S400”, or “semi-hybrid car”, but I think “hybrid car” is a little too much said, more like a greenwashing.

The basic idea is that all car manufacturers should make modular products, with possibilities of upgrading and modifying them as battery technologies evolve. For example, you buy the Mercedes in 2009, but in 2012 someone perfects a battery 100 times more powerful than it was possible in 2009, what do you do? Is it really green to dispose of the “old” three-year good S400 and buy a totally new one, instead of putting in some extra cash, giving Mercedes the old battery and electric engine for recycling, and just fitting in new one? This is green, this is practical, not encouraging the customers to dump or sell their old cars to other people, who will pollute more according to the standards of 2012, for example.

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1 COMMENT

  1. It’s definitely greenwashing. it is so-called start-stop technology, that basically stops an idle engine, starts it quickly and can help acceleration in the early stage. Of course, it won’t have any all-electric mode, because it is always attached to the huge gasoline engine.
    I eagerly await when they begin to market electric Smarts…

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