Since the beginning of 2017 Ola Källenius has been the Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. AI spoke to him about the company’s drive strategy.
AI: With the electrically driven studies Mercedes-Benz EQA and smart vision EQ, Mercedes-Benz Cars is sending clear signals on purely electric mobility. Is this the trend?
Källenius: Pure electric power is a crucial milestone on the road, but not the only one. Please let's not forget our plugin hybrids. Both the new S 560 e, the GLC F-CELL with a fuel cell drive system and the performance hybrid study Mercedes-AMG Project ONE use electricity from the power socket, but not exclusively. We call it EQ Power. In future we shall continue to extend our plug-in hybrid portfolio systematically. In addition, with the launch of the 48-volt on-board electrical system in combination with starter generators we are now launching electrical drive system components on a broad front, and in this way continually enhancing the efficiency of our combustion engines.
AI: So it is still the case that the drive system strategy is based on several platforms?
Källenius: Yes, on the road to emission-free driving we are continuing to pursue a three-lane drive system strategy: we are focusing on highly efficient high-tech combustion engines; systematic hybridization; and battery-electric or fuel cell drive.
AI: What does this mean for combustion engine technology?
Källenius: I'm sure that the combustion engines will still be around for a long time to come. In the year 2025 we are looking at a market share of up to 25% for the purely battery-electric cars.This means that at least 75% will still have a combustion engine on board - combined with electric, naturally.
AI: So the combustion engines also benefit from electrification?
Källenius: Precisely, our new S-Class is a case in point. Here we have just launched a six-cylinder in-line engine with an integrated starter generator. Through this we have made a huge leap where driveability, performance and consumption are concerned. Incidentally, we are the only car manufacturer currently offering this type of integrated starter generator with 48-volt technology as standard. We are gradually introducing the 48-volt technology to the entire portfolio – the next step is in the four-cylinder with our E-Class.
AI: Will diesel engines be discontinued?
Källenius: Definitely not. We still need the diesel and in future we shall continue to advance its further development. It has an advantage regarding CO2 emissions, and this source of power is still relevant in goods transport, as well as in numerous markets – above all, in Europe. With our newly developed premium diesel family we have proven that diesel can be clean.
AI: smart is planning to convert its model range entirely to electric drive by 2020 in Europe and the USA. When will the corresponding battery-electric models from Mercedes-Benz follow?
Källenius: With our new product and technology brand EQ we are not only starting a purely electric model initiative; we are also gradually establishing an electro-mobile ecosystem which includes the necessary charging infrastructure. We are investing more than €10 billion in the expansion of our EQ vehicle portfolio alone.
AI: When will the market see the first EQ model?
Källenius: The first half of 2019 will see the launch of the EQ SUV, which we will be calling the EQC. By 2022 we will have launched a more than 10 purely electrically driven vehicles. Over and above this we shall electrify the entire Mercedes-Benz portfolio and thus offer our customers at least one electrified alternative in every Mercedes-Benz model series, over 50 in all.
AI: On which platform will the EQ vehicles be based?
Källenius: Our modular system is the basis for our electrification strategy. This enables us to create a cross-model electric vehicle architecture for our EQ vehicle family, which is scalable and can be used flexibly. Incidentally, this does not just apply to the passenger car models. In the electrification of the Sprinter and Vito our colleagues from Mercedes-Benz Vans are also using the Mercedes-Benz Cars modular system.
AI: What about the batteries?
Källenius: Everything is pointing to growth here. Daimler is investing more than €1 billion in establishing a coordinated global battery production network. In total we are aiming for a production capacity of one million batteries per annum.
AI: And technology?
Källenius: Initially we will stay with the lithium-ion technology. In the coming years there will be further evolutionary increases in performance. But if a 10, 20 or even 30% increase in performance could be achieved, this would be quite something. Bigger leaps still are possible with the launch of post-lithium-ion technology, for example lithium-sulfur or solid-state batteries, but from today's perspective not within the next five years.
AI: Where does the fuel cell fit in?
Källenius: The fuel cell is and remains an interesting technology on the road to zero emissions. The GLC F-CELL is an integral part of our electric initiative. With the world premiere of the pre-series vehicles we have just recently taken a major step. Market launch is planned for next year. The high range thanks to the combination of the fuel cell and battery, short charging times and the everyday suitability of an SUV will make it the ideal companion. A real Mercedes – purely electric!
AI: What about charging, without the appropriate infrastructure, electric mobility will hardly be able to achieve a breakthrough.
Källenius: We are thinking in terms of intelligently networked charging solutions right from the outset. We want to make our customer a holistic premium offer in the field of electric mobility. Whether that's for charging at home, at work, or ultra-fast on the road. We are taking a close look at all scenarios and positioning ourselves on a broad basis with selected partnerships and cooperations. We are working together with BMW, Ford and the Volkswagen Group in a joint venture on setting up the most powerful charging network at major European transport axes.