Five years from now and the Mercedes-Benz will not only emit lesser carbon-dioxide (CO2), but will feel lighter despite the intelligent systems loaded on it. Daimler AG, the parent group, has taken on the challenge of reducing the CO2 emission to 120 gm/km average on its entire fleet by 2015 and is working on lightweight materials like aluminum and carbon fibre to further boost performance of its premium car collection. In an interview with Shweta Bhanot, Bharat Balasubramanian, vice-president, product innovation and process technologies, group research and advanced engineering, Daimler AG, talks about what the company calls the ?right material at right place? drive to make its cars future-ready in terms of performance and environmental consciousness. Excerpts:
What is the future of charge gasoline injection technology (CGI) for Mercedes?
We are looking at offering CGI technology on all our V6 and V8 cylinder lines, which can handle homogenous and stratified charge. We are moving away from the conventional port-injection and replacing them by direct-fuel injection system. There are two varieties in it?homogenous and stratified charge. Depending upon the quality of fuel available in a certain market, we will take a call on which of these variety to be introduced. For instance, the C 200 CGI (charge gasoline injection technology launched on Friday) in the Indian market is homogenous charge and is close to the conventional injection system). With the new technology, the engine can run with high excess air and thus offer excellent fuel efficiency. The efficiencies achieved are 11.4 km /litre of fuel from less than 11 km/litre earlier. Moreover, CO2 emissions are also reduced from 215gm/km to 201 gm/km, meaning 7% increase in your driving cycle.
What is the difference between stratified and homogenous charge and will we see stratified charge technology in India?
For homogenous charge, the fuel quality needed is like what is required for port-injection and hence can be offered in markets like India. However, stratified charge needs fuel with low-sulphur content, which is not available in India, China and US. The fuel needed for stratified charge is currently available in Europe, Scandinavia and some developed markets in Asia only. The stratified charge runs like a diesel engine at low speed and in city driving conditions it will help improve fuel consumption. However, it is critical to emissions and needs know-how to handle these engines. Bosch and Delphi are our suppliers for the technology components.
How far are we from seeing a carbon fibre made Merc?
We have a tie-up with Japanese Toray Industries for development of automobile parts made of carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP). We are working with them to produce certain components of the vehicles and looking at possibility of full carbon fibre vehicles as well. It should be on our models in the next three years.
With the better fuel technology and lightweight material usage on cars, what kind of efficiency is the company aiming at?
We are targeting in the coming five years to achieve CO2 reduction to 120 gm/km on our entire fleet. Further, we are looking at weight reduction on our next generation C-class by 5-10% despite more features added to it. This is our aim across our model lines and will be achieved with the help of lightweight materials.
What will be the arrangement with Renault as far as engines is concerned?
We will be sourcing components from Renault, which will be done to Mercedes specifications. We will be jointly developing engines with them, which will be for Mercedes and will be seen on A, B and Smart successors.
Is the moving away from internal combustion engine by automobile industry a myth?
This will not happen in the next 10-20 years. Though there will certainly be more penetration of electric drives in the coming years in the shape of mild hybrids, full hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
2010 is seen as the year of electric mobility; what are your plans?
Last year, we launched the next generation Smart with lithium-ion battery, and tested them in Berlin, Rome and Paris. Initially our plan was of a thousand units of such vehicles, but later it was extended due to the demand. We are leasing the vehicles to the customers for four years. In two years time, we will be bringing out the third generation Smart vehicles and are looking at over 10,000 units. These will be sold to customers.