Jochen Strenkert, the man responsible for hybrid powertrains at Mercedes, told the press at the start of the Geneva auto show on Tuesday that the next generation Mercedes S Class plug-in hybrid will come with a new wireless charging system. He says Mercedes and BMW are working on the system jointly to keep the development costs down for each manufacturer. Despite the lack of a wired connection, Strenkert says the new wireless system will offer recharge times comparable to charging via a cable.
The new S Class plug-in hybrid is expected in showrooms in the summer of 2017. It will feature Mercedes’ third generation hybrid powertrain with a larger battery pack. “We already have a working prototype,” Strenkert said. He added that “battery capacity is predicted to double every five years, so the next S Class plug-in will also have an increased range.” Since the current S 500e has 20 miles of all electric range, we can expect the next car to have approximately a 40 mile range.
The day before the Geneva show opened, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche announced that his company will invest $543 million to build a new battery factory in Kamenz, Germany. It has purchased 50 acres of land adjacent to its existing battery manufacturing facility for the expansion. “To get closer to fully electric driving, we keep investing big in the key component of emission-free vehicles: powerful batteries,” told the press, including Fortune.
Wireless charging is a hot topic among manufacturers. Tesla has been cool to the idea, preferring to work on an automatic charging cable for its SuperCharger locations. But what about charging at home? Tesla’s new Summon self parking feature could easily manage the accuracy needed to get a car perfectly aligned with a wireless charging hug.
One thing holding back acceptance of wireless charging is that current systems are limited in the power they can deliver. 7.5 kW is about the best available. At that rate, a full recharge can take 8 hours of more, depending on battery size. Nissan is hard at work on a system with twice as much power which would cut charging times in half. It sounds like the new Mercedes/BMW system will also have a higher power capability, although no technical details have been released yet.