Norway has indicated it wants to ban petrol-burning cars by the year 2025. Apparently it is not the only European country contemplating the move as the Netherlands is also looking to go completely green on its roads.
It was on the back of this news that Mercedes-Benz South Africa launched its new petrol/electric hybrid model, the C350e sedan in East London earlier this week.
The vehicle combines all the German manufacturer’s legendary quality and reliability in a package that won’t break the bank whenever you need to fill up.
That’s because the bank will already have been broken thanks to a purchase price of a little over R800000.
If that hasn’t made you go green, and you really want to make a meaningful contribution to saving the planet, then you’ll find the C350e an interesting proposition.
It’s a luxury performance sedan that sips a “certified” 2.1-litres per 100km, which corresponds to CO² emissions of 65g/km.
We got to test the vehicle on a drive from the Mercedes plant to Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve outside Port Alfred and back. It really is quick, and comfortable too.
The four-cylinder petrol engine, working with the electric motor, produces 205kW and torque of 600Nm.
The 0-100km/h sprint is completed in just 5.9 seconds, with a top speed of 250km/h.
There was nothing along the R72 it couldn’t handle, although I’m not sure we were able to fully appreciate the benefits of the electric engine on the open road route.
It’s around town that the hybrid will really come into its own, especially when it comes to saving fuel.
While the electric-only range of 31km may not sound a lot, the electric motor is in fact there to replace or support the combustion engine.
At the same time it makes use of energy generated while braking by converting it into electric energy and storing it in a high-voltage lithium-ion battery with a total capacity of 6.2 kWh.
The battery, which is water-cooled and weighs about 100kg. is mounted underneath the rear axle in order to maximise crash safety, driving dynamics and boot space.
It can be recharged in about 1hr:45min at a wall-box or via a standard domestic socket – depending on the connection – in a charge time of about two hours (with 230 V and 13 A, 3.0 kW).
Despite the space taken up by the battery, the boot capacity is 335 litres.
Switching the C350e on was quite unnerving. It starts virtually silently and runs in electric mode. It was only when I selected “Drive” and pulled away that I realised the motor was running.
Despite being loaded with technology, the hybrid is no harder to drive than a normal petrol or diesel vehicle, although there is a lot more going on in the instrument cluster.
One new feature is the so-called haptic accelerator pedal, which helps reduce fuel consumption.
It provides feedback to the driver through pulses via the pedal, indicating whether the petrol or electric engine should be used.
There are also operating modes not found in “normal” Mercedes-Benz cars. These include:
lHybrid: all hybrid functions such as electric operating mode, boost and recuperation are available and are applied;
lE-mode: used for all-electric driving;
lE-save: the charge status of the battery is maintained to allow for all-electric driving at a later stage in the journey; and
lCharge: allows the battery to be recharged while driving, using the combustion engine. Another feature not found in its petrol or diesel siblings is the route-based operating strategy.
In simple terms, when a route is entered into the GPS, the system devises the best strategy for the most efficient operation, taking into account issues such as traffic and hills.
The idea is that if you’re on a long journey, urban areas should be reached with a fully charged battery so that the vehicle can be driven in all-electric mode.
Available in three trim levels – Avantgarde, Exclusive and AMG – the C350e comes standard with a six-year/100000km PremiumDrive maintenance plan. It is exempt from CO² emission tax.
While the 350e undoubtedly represents the future of motoring, I’m not sure I’d fork out the extra cash just yet, when a similarly specced petrol or diesel model could retail for about R200000 less.
But, if money is no object and you’re after something a little more luxurious and dynamic than a Toyota Prius, it could well be the answer. — andrewstone@
Internal combustion engine
Cylinders: 4 in-line, 1991cc
0-100 km/h: 5.9 sec
Top speed (km/h): 250km/h
Top speed electric: 130km/h
Price incl VAT: From R804900