Mercedes will add 10 plug-ins by 2020

Hybrid module slots into all 4x4 and rear-drive models

Mercedes is planning to dramatically increase its range of plugin hybrid vehicles, as well as continuing to work on both fuel cell and pure electric cars.

For the moment, Merc's plugin hybrid tech works only with four and rear-wheel-drive cars, so you can safely expect to see plugin versions of the E-Class, C-Class, ML, GL and their various offshoots by 2020, to sit alongside the existing S-Class plugin. The system works with both petrols and diesels and Mercedes says that it will be critical in achieving expected European legislation which will drive average fleet Co2 emissions down to as low as 99g/km.

Mercedes isn't stopping at the plugin level though. Its prototype B-Class hydrogen powered car has just passed the 300,000km mileage mark in prototype testing, and Mercedes is one of a groups of car makers committed to putting hydrogen fuel cell cars on sale at so-called reasonable prices. On the pure electric front, Mercedes is currently working with BMW to develop an induction recharging pad, that can be installed on a driveway and which can charge a car without the need to physically plug it in. There have even been suggestions that if the technology can be developed to a universal standard that would allow it to be installed in the road surface, charging electric cars as they pass over it. Mercedes also says that its battery technology is increasing dramatically and that the hoped-for advances in lithium-air batteries (which don't rely on oxygen stored in the battery to react and create and electrical current) could soon mean that batteries have a similar energy density to petrol.

In the meantime, petrol and diesel engines will become smaller, lower-revving and feature more turbos. Although Mercedes is currently developing a new series of in-line modular six-cylinder engines, it has said that it won’t follow rival BMW by creating a three-cylinder engine from the same component set. According to Stuttgart statement reported in Autocar Magazine, a low-revving four-cylinder engine can be as frugal as a three-pot, but more refined.

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring