Mercedes-Benz is going to equip its first hybrid car ever with lithium-ion batteries produced by the German Continental AG, a leading manufacturer of brake systems, tires, and many other sophisticated parts for the auto industry. The batteries of the new Mercedes-Benz luxury sedan S400 BlueHybrid that is set to hit the market in summer 2009 will have a higher storage capacity and an overall better performance than the Nickel-metal hydride batteries which are currently used in the best-known hybrid, the Toyota Prius. The batteries produced by Continental are more advanced and relatively small. They should just weigh 25 kilogramms. This battery was being developed mainly for use in hybrid cars and plug-in hybrids. The battery set should have a minimum lifetime of ten years. For Continental, the newly developed Li-ion battery is part of an attempt to become a leading supplier of batteries for use not only in hybrids, but also in electric cars with “range extender” like the Chevrolet Volt and all-electric cars(Read: The electric car revolution is about to happen). The management of Continental already admits that the cars running on nothing but electricity have the potential to play a central role in the automotive industry in the future. Therefore, Continental wants to become a major supplier of electric motors, too. Furthermore, the company’s engineers are developing several systems for regaining energy e.g. while braking and using it to recharge the battery. Until today, there are no information available about the price of the new battery, but being used in luxury sedans first, the extra-costs for the battery will be moderate in comparison with the total price of the car. The first-time application of li-ion batteries in a mass-produced car is an opportunity for Continental to gain experience and keep improving the technology. For the next generation, the aim is a battery which should be 30% smaller than the current model.
Moreover, Continental is working with GM to provide the battery pack for the Chevy Volt semi-electric car.
For Mercedes-Benz, the hybrid version of its luxury flagship car is the reaction to first, high-gasoline prices and second, the European Union’s plan to punish car makers with a fleet with high CO2 emissions. The punishments could increase the price of large cars by several thousand euros. The parent company Daimler is also testing an electric version of the microcar Smart.
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