Diesel hybrids

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At the 2005 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany Mercedes-Benz unveiled two new technologies called “Direct Hybrid” and “Bluetec Hybrid”.

Toyota combatted Mercedes unveil with the unveil of their own new LX 450H petro-hybrid sedan. Toyota has stated that they dont think diesel engines, or diesel hybrids, are the answer. Of course, Toyota doesnt have the diesel market that Mercedes does.

Toyota has been the king of hybrids, but Mercedes has thrown down the gauntlet; let the games begin. Diesel makes up 50 percent of the European market. 56 percent of Mercedes-Benzs European market is diesel. Diesel is huge in Europe and as the price of gas has risen folks are starting to look at ways to get more miles out of one gallon.

The S350 “Direct Hybrid” is a 3.5-liter S-Class V-6 petrol engine car. The main emphasis for the S350 concept is to reduce fuel consumption.

The S320 “Bluetec” is a 3.2-liter S-Class V-6 diesel engine car. The main emphasis for the S320 concept is to reduce emissions from diesel fuel.

Europe is able to use diesel engines because their diesel fuel is so clean, at an average of 15ppm of sulfur. Europes diesel usage is now at 25 percent of their oil consumption and their CO2 emissions have gone down 25 percent. The requirements for their NOX emissions is 200mg/km. Why isnt America using diesel?

The EPA has mandated that in 2006 the United States oil will have 15ppm of sulfur in their diesel fuel. Once the diesel fuel is cleaned up European Manufacturers will start bringing in their clean diesel engines. California and six other states have more stringent requirements than Europe, at 50mg/km of NOX. Diesels still wont be able to be sold in those seven states without an additive that reduces the NOX emissions. EPA is neutral on specific diesel and urea additives, as long as the Manufacturer meets the requirement of the urea being added for the first 120,000 miles.

BLUETEC is a new exhaust gas purification technology that reduces nitrogen oxide (NOX) by about 80 per cent through selective catalytic reduction (SCR). Mercedes engineers developed a special piezo injection valve and a fuel system with a high pressure of 200 bar. The stability of the injection spray – one of the critical aspects of the process – is ensured by a special injection nozzle that opens to the outside and is activated at ultra-high speeds by a piezo crystal. This technology makes the “BLUETEC HYBRID” the cleanest diesel in the world, with the best natural fuel economy available. It

“BLUETEC” has already been fitted to more than 5,000 Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles such as the Actros and the Axor. “BLUETEC” has reduced the commercial vehicle

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emissions of nitrogen oxides by around 80 per cent. This means that these vehicles already fulfil the EURO 5 exhaust gas standards, which will first become binding in 2009 for trucks.Basically, the “adblue” additive is added in the exhaust line, reacting with the nitrogen oxide in the catalytic converter to form ammonia, which is then converted into water and nitrogen. The vehicles are notified when the adblue gets low, and just like the gasoline gauge gets lower, there will be notification when you have only 10 starts left, then 9 and finally when you have only one start left. The car will not start once the additive tank is empty, just the same as if you ran out of gasoline. The tank is configured to have enough adblue to run between normal oil fills, at which time it will need to be refilled.

Hybrids still have the question of battery life and what to do with Nickel Metal Hydride batteries. There will be questions to answer, such as what happens as the car ages and is resold. If oil changes are not free for the entire lifetime of the car how does one get the urea in their tank? Every new technology is going to bring new problems to be solved, but we, as a country will solve them through real world use and through even newer technologies.

Honda was the first hybrid to market, but Toyota has taken the lead dog role. Toyota didnt let the government requirements stop them from creating a car that did better than government requirements of fuel or emissions. Mercedes will have to do the same with diesel-hybrids if they are going to take the lead in that technology.

Chrysler has also been working on SunDiesel, a Biomass to Liquid (BTL) using the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis process. This process allows even residual materials like wood cutting and straw to be converted to diesel. Biodiesel (also known as plant methyl ester -pme) uses only plant fruit’s that contain oil. EU subsidies are making this diesel competitive with diesel fuel from petroleum. According to Mercedes, SunDiesel would reduce CO2 in BTL by 90 percent.

The question is whether Dieter Zetsche understands the importance of this reveal, or if he believes in it. All the Manufacturers are jumping on the hybrid bandwagon, but Bluetec is the first real technology that has the ability to meet clean diesel emissions in the United States and Japan. Zetsche just came on board as President of Mercedes, just in time to present the hybrids, but they werent his idea.

Europes requirements of NOX emissions is 200mg/km, but with Bluetec Mercedes can take those emissions down to 50mg/km. This is the time for Mercedes to step up and use the technology because they can, because it is better than any other technology out there. Not because it is required by a government, but because it will raise the bar higher and faster than any other Manufacturer will be able to do. And because it will make Mercedes Toyotas biggest competition on a environmentally global level.

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About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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