Mercedes-Benz Vision S500 Plug-in Hybrid to be Unveiled at Frankfurt Motor Show

Along with its high performance SLS AMG, Mercedes-Benz will introduce a more environmentally friendly car in the form of another hybrid S-class. This one -- the Vision S500 Plug-in Hybrid -- comes equipped with a charging plug.

Like most other plug-in hybrids or "extended-range electric vehicles," the Vision S500 can actually propel itself on electric power alone -- a notable difference from the production S400 hybrid. Mercedes-Benz claims the S500 plug-in can travel 18 miles on electricity alone, and achieve the equivalent of 74 mpg on the new European driving cycle test.

“The Vision 500 Plug-in Hybrid is a new milestone on our path toward zero-emission mobility. It is a luxurious and safe S-class that offers superior driving performance while at the same time consuming less fuel than current compacts,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler. “All of this shows that our top models will also be able to combine automotive fascination with responsibility for the environment.”

In order to achieve the astonishing numbers Mercedes is claiming for the Vision S500, it had to seriously increase the size of the car's lithium-ion battery pack. The battery in the S400 Hybrid only holds 0.9 kWh, and is small enough to fit in the engine compartment. The lithium-ion battery in the Vision S500 has a capacity over 10 kWh, and had to be installed in the trunk of the vehicle. With a bigger battery comes a larger weight penalty as well -- the S500's pack weighs around 286 pounds, while the S400's battery tips the scales at 165 pounds.

Mercedes also increased the output of the electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission. In the Vision S500, the electric motor is rated at 60 hp (44 kW) and 184 lb-ft (249 Nm) of torque. The electric motor is coupled to the same 7-speed transmission and 3.5-liter V-6 as in the S400 Hybrid.

Even with all the extra weight and fuel saving measures, the Vision S500 shouldn’t be a dog to drive. Mercedes claims a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.4 seconds, an improvement of the S400 Hybrid's 7.0 figure.

Although the Vision S500 Plug-in Hybrid makes its debut later this month at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the only timetable Mercedes has given for production is to say “it will take some time” to reach consumers.

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