DaimlerChrysler’s Mercedes-Benz division said it intends to have its first hybrid vehicle within five years, while Porsche reportedly is studying whether to build a hybrid version of its Cayenne sport utility vehicle using a Toyota powertrain.
Thomas Weber, a DaimlerChrysler board member, told the industry paper Automobilwoche in remarks published Monday that the Mercedes hybrid "“will take less than five years and it will be a typical Mercedes-Benz premium vehicle.”
Plans are to sell it in the United States and Japan, but the world’s fifth-biggest carmaker does not think Europe's diesel focus will be replaced any time soon by hybrids, which combine a conventional car engine with a battery pack that creates electricity by capturing energy from braking.
“We will establish the car in markets such as the United States and Japan where hybrids could be advantageous, for instance in cities with frequent stop-and-go traffic and in specific other conditions,” Weber said.
The company could probably better supply the European market with diesel engines that offer comparable fuel savings, Weber said, but it was ready to roll out hybrids in Europe as well should market conditions change.
He said DaimlerChrysler was considering working on hybrid technology with partners to keep the costs down. “We are fully open to this and are holding talks with appropriate carmakers and suppliers,” he said.
Porsche and Lexus RH 400h
Automobilwoche also reported Monday that, should current feasibility studies work out, Porsche would adopt the 270 horsepower gas-electric powertrain to be used in the Lexus RX 400h SUV.
The RX 400h, based on the Lexus RX 330, is set to go on sale in the United States in early 2005. Lexus is a Toyota division.
Hybrid technology could help Porsche meet tougher environmental standards in Europe and the United States, where rule changes are beginning to take effect. Stricter U.S. emissions regulations will be phased in through 2009. The United States is Porsche’s primary sales market.
“The concept in our Lexus SUV would fit well on the Cayenne,” a Toyota manager was quoted as saying, adding that Toyota’s aim was to spread its hybrid technology worldwide.
Toyota already sells the Prius hybrid sedan. Other models available in the U.S. market are Honda's Civic and Insight hybrids, and Ford’s Escape SUV hybrid.