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  • Diesel electric

    Seeing as everything we’ll buy from now on will have some quantity of batteries in them so we can shift our CO2 generation to China, well if it weren’t for the inconvenient fact that we fuel EVs with electricity from gas and coal, we’ll end up with the age old discussion of EV vs PHEV. PHEV usually means petrol plus batteries but Mercedes still persists with diesel plus batteries.

    I happened to rent a Mercedes E300de over the weekend in resale grey and I thought I’d relay some experiences with it. A lot of it will be fuel economy related as it’s the only real reason to end up here.


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    To cut to the chase, I think the idea is that EVs are great in cities (which they are) and diesels are great on motorways (which they are). Conversely, diesels are crap in cities because they poison people and EVs are useless on motorways because the range evaporates in like an hour unless you want to be that gimp in the inside lane with an expensive monument to wokery and all things Greta, being overtaken by everyone. So here we are, an actual common sense solution.

    The way this works is that you charge up the battery (about 10kWh) and as you set off on your journey, the car uses the sat nav route to figure out the urban slower stop startie sections where it will cut the engine and glide on electric propulsion and when hitting the motorway the diesel engine will spring to life and do what it does best which is to semi quietly sit at pretty much whatever speed you want for like a 1,000km. I found the cut-off was around 90-100km/h. I charged the car in about an hour and a half off a public charger.

    And you know what, I kinda like it. Around town and on shorter trips you’ll barely use the engine and when you want to push on to get to a far flung destination you… just push on and diesel does what diesel does best. All of this works seamlessly, you will barely notice the transition other than the silence or lack thereof. It also comes with Merc’s 9sp auto which shifts very nicely. The electric motor is also used for torque fill so there is none of the usual diesel lag or poor throttle response. If you floor it then the electric motor handles the step off as the diesel engine fires up, then they work in tandem for a period, and eventually it’s just ICE. I can’t say I did much flooring, though, and in reality it was often just electric propulsion until the speed required more oomph.

    There is one minor downside. Mercedes hasn’t integrated the battery very well in this model so there is a noticeable bump in the boot. I can’t say it affected me in the slightest.

    So a couple of examples. The first one is about a 220km drive starting with full battery and long motorway section at 130km/h. 4.9l per 100km is pretty decent I think. You can see from the below how the diesel engine is dealing with the motorway stretch and then cut off once I hit slower roads. The car had kept a decent bit of charge for this purpose.

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    The next one is a more typical commute type journey. It was in the order of 40-50km again starting with full battery. I think we can live with 1.9l per 100km.

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    I liked the car and it was a great motorway cruiser. Mercedes does that well. I don’t know if I would buy one per se but as a rental it was great. I drove 540km in total and filled up something like 26l before returning it.

    It’s certainly way better than an EV at long distances. I don’t think diesel can be beaten at that. When the electric motor kicks in, it’s a very nice vehicle also and I very much enjoyed that at lower speeds.

    There are some very complicated read-outs available from the car while driving it that explains what’s going on. And there’s a lot going on. Let’s hope all of that complexity doesn’t lead to issues.
    I'm with the resistance

  • #2
    I'm not fully up to speed on these but is MB the only manufacturer that is offering something like this, diesel\electric?

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    • #3
      I don’t know, maybe. I had actually booked a manual petrol 3-series after having looked at some AMG options long and hard before concluding that it would have been a waste of money on that drive. It was like 2C also and winter tyres so not ideal for loads of power. And it was damp.
      I'm with the resistance

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      • #4
        I thought Peugeot offered a dieseasel electric previously, not sure why they abandoned it and yes these hybrids are getting very complex.
        I’m standing in a field full of sheep, is it wrong that I feel aroused?? 🤨🤪

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        • #5
          Thanks for the review DMZ. Hearing it coming from a long term EV owner and lover of all things petrol does add a bit to the review I have to say.

          For Greta reasons, and financial ones too, I'll be staying in the current daily wagon as long as I can. But I can't see past a PHEV for it's replacement and ideally a diesel/electric. Once I have 40km or so or electric range, I could realistically do a minimum of 20k of my km a year on EV and the diesel would be there to step in for the long hauls, towing etc.

          I would have some concern over the small battery getting fully charged and drained 11 or 12 times a week though. Maybe they like that rather than sitting around? Maybe it'd be dead in a year? That's where the fear lies for an out-of-warranty owner like myself

          My father has the old version of this, the non plug-in one. I can't quote the specs but it has a smaller battery capacity and only really allows electric only at crawling speeds in town or parking etc. After that it's basically a big diesel Prius and it does a perfectly good job at that with torque fill, regen etc. and generally asking just a little bit less of the diesel...but having an extra layer of sufficient power available when it's called upon.

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          • #6
            4.9l/km is like 48MPG. So a diesel basically. That's a little disappointing, no? The suburban stuff is great, but what does a good petrol PHEV do on long runs? Can't be much shy of 40MPG? in which case I'll take petrol thanks.
            "All the finesse of a badger." (cdiv)

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Bazg2 View Post
              I thought Peugeot offered a dieseasel electric previously, not sure why they abandoned it and yes these hybrids are getting very complex.
              Peugeot RXH and the Volvo V60D6 are two for sure. Not sure if anyone else gave it a go.

              From a long term reliability point of view, it is kind of a potential trap. It's the most complex ICE and emissions reduction technology matched with what is still early adopter level EV stuff.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Titan View Post
                I'm not fully up to speed on these but is MB the only manufacturer that is offering something like this, diesel\electric?
                Peugeot and Citroen had a couple of Diesel Hybrids a few years back. Don't know if they still offer them.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by sj View Post
                  4.9l/km is like 48mpg. So a diesel basically. That's a little disappointing, no? The suburban stuff is great, but what does a good petrol phev do on long runs? Can't be much shy of 40mpg? In which case i'll take petrol thanks.
                  48 us mpg, 57 uk mpg

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SJ View Post
                    4.9l/km is like 48MPG. So a diesel basically. That's a little disappointing, no? The suburban stuff is great, but what does a good petrol PHEV do on long runs? Can't be much shy of 40MPG? in which case I'll take petrol thanks.
                    It's nearly 58mpg this side of the Atlantic I think?

                    The thing people are finding with petrol PHEVs is with the extra weight, they can struggle to get more than 30mpg on the ICE. But, that's not a concern if you're doing lots of short runs and can plug it in regularly. It really is about figuring out what's best for your own usage cycle.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dimitri View Post

                      It's nearly 58mpg this side of the Atlantic I think?

                      The thing people are finding with petrol PHEVs is with the extra weight, they can struggle to get more than 30mpg on the ICE. But, that's not a concern if you're doing lots of short runs and can plug it in regularly. It really is about figuring out what's best for your own usage cycle.
                      Nail on the head D. There's a guy on the autostadt facebook group who recently bought a Passat GTE. His commute is 27 kms each way and he was getting 34kms real world range on the battery, he was able to charge at work and at home. He managed to get 1900kms on 1 tank of petrol due to being able to charge at both ends. That's making the PHEV system work properly.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by dimitri View Post

                        It's nearly 58mpg this side of the Atlantic I think?

                        The thing people are finding with petrol PHEVs is with the extra weight, they can struggle to get more than 30mpg on the ICE. But, that's not a concern if you're doing lots of short runs and can plug it in regularly. It really is about figuring out what's best for your own usage cycle.
                        Hey you're right. That is good. Hmmm.

                        Totally agree with this. I know you're ahead of the curve on this stuff, but when I advise my family or friends, I tell them they also need to think about litres per KM, or GPM more than MPG to understand what it means for them. Like, this car does 20 km per litre. If you're doing normal petrol MPG (like, low 30s,), that's like 12KM per litre.

                        As someone who drives no distance (as with Mammy SJ), all the extra hybrid gubbins is simply not worth it as she'll never save enough to justify the extra expense. Conversely, SJ senior will save a fortune as he mixes commute with regular cross-country driving.
                        "All the finesse of a badger." (cdiv)

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                        • #13
                          That's it. I do a lot of 40km drives, usually with plenty of charge time between them, and most of the other times I get in the car during the week it's for 200+km and ideally I'd not have to stop or worry about stopping or check an app for charger status to plan the return trip

                          So, since I'm pretty much never in a city centre, I'm quite happy in a diesel. It works for me. When it comes time to change, they probably won't be an option. So reviews like this are very helpful for when I look to pick up a slightly used one of these (in wagon body) in three years Ideally it'd be 4x4 and not have a bump in the boot that the dog and my mtb will hate, but the Merc is a contender.

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                          • #14
                            Clearly the answer for you is two cars. An old Leaf for the commute/dog and a diesel for the long trips. Have you considered a Polo bluemotion actually?
                            "All the finesse of a badger." (cdiv)

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                            • #15
                              Given that most PHEV is petrol it's naturally what I've considered previously and you tend to get way more oomph with that combo but also more complexity, with sometimes turbo-charged and supercharged petrols combined with the electric motor. That's pretty every imaginable drivetrain technology in the one place. I was actually wondering to myself if the battery is used as an engine warmer. In the Merc at least, the battery was used to heat the cabin so plausible. Turning on and off the engine abruptly when it's stone cold can't be good for it.

                              I was also wondering to myself the other day why there aren't more of the diesel electric combos out there and now I'm even more surprised. The GLE version of this has a 30kWh battery and if I were looking for a vehicle like that, I think that's what I would get, now that I've tried this. You get loads of diesel range and low running costs and then the 30kWh battery will do a lot of EVing around the city to the extent that it may not need to be charged every day. From a usability point of view at least, very little hassle and you can tow stuff as well and there isn't that enormous change in running costs when you go from battery to ICE that you get in the petrol versions when the petrol engine needs to lug around something weighing at least 2,000kg and often probably more like 2,500kg. With petrol PHEV you really need to think about how you're going to use the car, diesel PHEV I think will work for everyone.

                              Tbh I think there's a bit of thinking be done yet on the best way to do all of this and I'm not entirely sure a full EV is the right approach, particularly not if you want to do longer distance driving with any regularity. No matter what anyone (including myself) says, that sucks in an EV.

                              I get that petrol is more fun but it's more fun when you're accelerating at slower speeds where you will actually be using the battery power most of the time and once you're doing motorway at cruise control, there is no fun to be had so may as well pick the option that is cheapest to run and gets you there as quickly as possible.
                              I'm with the resistance

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