The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan will have a plug-in hybrid version that can be driven in electric-only mode twice as far as its predecessor, thanks in part to a more powerful battery.
The estimated range of 100 km (62 miles) makes the C-Class the third plug-in hybrid from Mercedes to hit the triple-digit mark after the GLE crossover and S-Class sedan.
During the online unveiling of the new-generation C-Class on Feb. 23, Markus Schaefer, Mercedes' chief operating officer, said the C-Class plug-in hybrid will set the benchmark in its segment and will allow drivers to comfortably use electric power for everyday journeys and hybrid power on long distances.
Mercedes expects that many more customers will opt for the new C-Class plug-in hybrid than the current plug-in due to the much longer range.
"We will see a much, much larger share of plug-in hybrids in the future due to the very competitive package," Dirk Fetzer, head of product management for the C-Class, said during a briefing with journalists.
Long range is considered key to ensuring that owners of plug-in hybrids drive their vehicles in zero-emissions electric mode as much as possible instead of using the car's gasoline or diesel engine.
Automakers are accelerating launches of full-electric cars to reduce their CO2 footprint and some, such as Jaguar, Bentley and Ford Motor Co. of Europe, intend to drop combustion engine cars entirely and offer only battery-powered vehicles.
But plug-in hybrid drivetrains, which combine a combustion engine and an electric motor to reduce emissions, will be relevant for many years because their substantially longer electric range makes them more attractive to buyers, said Ola Kallenius, CEO of Mercedes parent Daimler.
"It really becomes a sensible option where literally from Monday through Friday you can drive emission free, but you still have the combustion engine to give you any flexibility you need," he said during an earnings call on Feb. 18.
The C-Class has the fourth generation of Mercedes's plug-in technology. The first new C-Class plug-in hybrid with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 95-kilowatt electric motor will arrive in European showrooms in the autumn, a few months after the launch in June of the regular C-Class models, Mercedes said. A diesel plug-in hybrid will also follow.
The 96-cell battery pack has a total capacity of 25.4 kilowatt-hours that increases the electrical range to 100 km.
The100-km range of the new C-Class under Europe's WLTP test regime compares with the 54 km that the outgoing C 300 plug-in hybrid could drive on one charge. The 54-km figure is based on Europe's previous NEDC testing cycle that is less reflective of real-world performance.