We’ve got three Mercedes-Benz stories today:
1. The ML 450 Hybrid (shown here) is announced for sale in the U.S. with a 275-hp V6 and two electric motors. When both motors are needed, the system can generate some 335 hp and 381 lb-ft of torque, which ought to get you up to speed nicely. “During braking and coasting, one motor acts as a generator, slowing the SUV and recovering kinetic energy.” So says GlobalMotors. Mileage is reported to be 21 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.
M-B has decided to make the car available only for lease, not purchase—an interesting gambit, perhaps related to its battery technology (nickel-metal-hydride, not lithium-ion). Run down to your Benz dealer and fork over $659 a month for 36 months or $549 a month for 60 months if you want this baby.
2. Rent-a-smart: Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche has announced a pilot program called cars2go for renting smart cars in Austin, Texas. (smart is a separate brand owned by Mercedes-Benz.) Rent ‘em for a few hours or a day and return them whole to a designated location. When the company tried this in Ulm, Germany, users paid “19 euro cents per minute including taxes, insurance, mileage and fuel.” If it works in Austin, other cities may get the program.
Smart sales have been way down in the U.S. after an explosion in 2008 when the cars were first offered. Down 70.4 percent last month (compared to a year earlier), sales of 661 cars in October just ain’t going to cut it. Too bad, because the car is selling elsewhere; I’ve even seen a few here in Oaxaca, Mexico. Maybe the rental program will take off, and Autoweek says Daimler is considering a four-seat smart, to be built with Renault.
3. Daimler also debuted its “third-generation Mercedes-Benz Citaro fuel-cell-hybrid bus at the site in Hamburg, Germany, where 10 of the buses enter service next year.” While we don’t ordinarily review buses in this column, this big boy was said to “perform outstandingly” and represents a tremendous push forward in fuel-cell technology and infrastructure. The Citaro has been tested in the European Union since 2003 and uses some 50 percent less hydrogen than its predecessor. “Practically maintenance free,” the Citaro has a long operating life. Get on the bus.
The Nissan Leaf EV, which we have reported on, made its U.S. debut Friday at Dodger Stadium in L.A. Said the whimsical Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s Chief, “This is not a golf cart—it’s a real car.” We should hope so: At $25-33,000 per industry estimates, it should do more than carry two of you, your clubs, and liquid refreshment. We think the Leaf sounds like a winner, and it will get to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds (says Nissan), with a wide network of charging stations planned in the U.S.
GM, naturally, is going a different route. Bob Lutz, the company’s marketing chief, told The Car Connection that a big ‘ol front-drive Chevy Impala will be coming to compete with the Ford Taurus. “Lutz also hinted at a hybrid option for the new Impala, stating that the car will be compatible with GM’s hybrid technology.” You can all stand up and cheer, hybrid fans.
And finally, a Washington group of heavy-hitters called the Electrification Coalition has announced plans to raise more than $120 billon in federal funds over eight years to get 120 million EVs on the road and on the grid by 2030. Details are here. The idea is to combat the nation’s dependence on oil and bring serious leadership to bear.
The initial investment would be targeted at a handful of cities, or “electrification ecosystems,” designed to show the viability of both the plug-ins and the electric grid they would interact with. The first phase would last four years and invest in six to eight cities that would essentially serve as large-scale demonstration programs. The second phase would then extend to an additional 20 to 25 cities.
What do you think, folks? Can the Electrification Coalition succeed?