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Mercedes-Benz on hybrid strategy in Australia: "We're definitely seeing increased interest in plug-ins"

Mercedes says more consumers will be moving toward PHEVs despite limited sales in 2020.

Mercedes-Benz has committed to the rollout of plug-in hybrid (EQ Power) variants of its models in Australia, despite the pick-up of said vehicles achieving a fraction of the popularity of their non-plug-in counterparts.

For reference, VFACTS figures show plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants found 1114 homes to the end of September this year, compared to regular hybrids, which found a whopping 40,834 homes, driven largely by the popularity of the Toyota RAV4 and others.

Incredibly, sales of regular hybrids have doubled since 2019, while PHEVs have barely seen a 10 per cent increase in the same period.

“Reception to the GLC 300e has been really positive, but it’s still early days.” said Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman Ryan Lewis when asked how the company's PHEV rollout was going since the brand last talked to CarsGuide on the topic.

“We think there are lots of consumers who are ready to take on this kind of technology. I think it’s natural we will see people move toward [PHEVs] in bigger numbers,” he continued.

Mercedes-Benz Australia is currently rolling out its latest PHEV, the A 250e hatchback, which offers a strong-for-its-size 74kW/300Nm electric motor, a large 15.6kWh battery good for a 73km electric-only driving range, in conjunction with its 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine.

What sets the A 250e apart from many of its PHEV rivals though, is its DC charging option pack ($1490), which lets owners charge it from a public DC outlet – a feature normally reserved for full EVs. A DC charging unit can fill its lithium ion battery pack from 10 – 80 per cent in just 25 minutes. The option also unlocks a higher throughput for AC charging – up to 7.2kW from 3.7kW.

The A 250 e offers full-EV style DC charging, and higher charge speeds for AC public outlets. The A 250 e offers full-EV style DC charging, and higher charge speeds for AC public outlets.

Mr Lewis explained features like this will be an important feature for acclimatising Mercedes buyers to electrified drivetrains. “EVs feel like a big jump for some, but a PHEV is the perfect steppingstone to that,” he said whilst also noting the range advantages PHEVs can offer over EVs or regular hybrids.

With the launch of the A 250e hatch and sedan, Mercedes now offers many of its PHEV models in Australia, notably missing are the B 250e (which so far has only been seen in left-hand-drive guise) and its largest EQ Power model, the GLE 350de which is a rare diesel. It offers a 100kW electric motor and a 106km electric-only driving range.

Mercedes’ Australian head of communications, Jerry Stamoulis, told CarsGuide in August that its range of PHEV models on sale in Australia is designed to “appeal to the broadest range of customers” who might consider EQ Power.

It seems unlikely Australia will see the European-market B 250e or GLE 350de. It seems unlikely Australia will see the European-market B 250e or GLE 350de.

The aim of the brand’s larger-than-normal battery and motors is to offer its customers the ability to run on electric power for most journeys rather than just some. Its research concluded that a 50km electric-only range is sufficient for 90 per cent of all journeys.

EQ Power is just one pillar of Mercedes’ electrification strategy, which also includes ‘EQ Boost’ 48-volt mild-hybrid models (like the recently launched new-generation GLE Coupe) and ‘EQ’ all-electric models like the EQC.

Benz’ rollout of these models is at odds with rival Volkswagen whose representatives cited low demand in the local division’s choice to skip PHEVs for Australia and wait for its ‘ID’ all-electric range instead.

Interestingly, VW sister brand Audi has said it will launch its new-generation plug-in hybrids in Australia but with an extended timeline compared to its more aggressive European PHEV rollout.

Meanwhile, mainstream non-luxury players Hyundai and Toyota are more fully backing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as the next step alternate to a full EV from existing regular hybrid models.

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