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Mercedes is the only manufacturer to market plug-in hybrid diesel cars. They are classified as Crit’Air 1, are exempt from any penalty, can run 100% electrically and are fuel-efficient.

In France, the share of diesel in new car sales has fallen from over 70% in 2012 to 30.6% in 2020 (source: CCFA). Because of environmental convictions, anticipation of traffic restrictions and fear of resale, many French people have abandoned diesel, especially since the scandal of cheating on approval tests (Dieselgate). The advantageous taxation of diesel, which had contributed to its popularity in France, is also disappearing.

For city models, for example, a petrol engine makes sense. Customers were therefore easily able to move away from diesel and manufacturers followed suit. In the case of larger vehicles, it’s the plug-in hybrid that has benefited from the fall of diesel, with sales of PHEV models soaring. These cars, usually equipped with a gasoline engine and at least one electric motor, can be recharged to travel about 50 kilometers without (exhaust) emissions. Beyond that, they function as conventional hybrid cars (HEV).

However, studies have shown that plug-in hybrids consume considerably more fuel than advertised in real-life conditions. This is not a technological problem. The reason for the difference is that drivers of plug-in hybrids, on average, charge their cars far less often than the approval protocols suggest.

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These so-called weighted approval values, in the range of 1 to 3 l/100 km, therefore suggest consumption levels that are difficult to achieve in real-life conditions. They make us forget that we should not expect a miracle at the pump with a petrol engine in a heavy car, even an electrified one, especially if it has not been designed for this use. Once their battery is discharged, gasoline plug-in hybrids are not so suitable for heavy drivers, not to mention their limited autonomy, due to a tank that is generally cut down to accommodate their battery.

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Is the plug-in hybrid diesel the ideal solution for heavy drivers?

To address this issue, and while companies are encouraged to electrify their fleets, Mercedes has developed a plug-in hybrid diesel technology; a road already taken in the past by Volvo, or by Volkswagen with its XL1.</em>.p

><!–[if IE 9]><!–[if IE 9]>Mercedes GLC 300 de EQ Power

Today,

Mercedes is the only manufacturer to offer such technology under the bonnet of its E-Class Berlin/Break, GLC SUV/Coupe and GLE SUV/Coupe. This offer coexists in the range with plug-in hybrid petrol engines and is aimed at both professional and private customers.

In our test of the Mercedes GLC 300 4MATIC, we put its EQ Power plug-in hybrid diesel engine to the test.

Under

the hood of the GLC 300 de is a 2.0-liter turbo diesel four-cylinder engine with 194 hp and 400 Nm of torque in a longitudinal position. This is the same engine that powers the 220 d version. Here it is supplemented by a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor with 90 kW (122 hp) and 440 Nm of torque. The combination produces a maximum combined output of 306 hp and 700 Nm of torque, which is transmitted to all four wheels via a 9-GTRONIC automatic converter gearbox and conventional 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

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So this is a relatively simple hybrid. The electric part comes in ahead of the transmission and this hybrid drivetrain only works in parallel mode. This means that the internal combustion engine can drive the wheels in parallel with the electric motor, but not as a generator for the latter.

The battery is located under the trunk floor. Its capacity of 13.5 kWh gives the GLC 300 an electric range of between 40 and 45 km, according to the combined WLTP cycle (between 44 and 51 km in the urban cycle). Fuel consumption values, weighted according to this electric range, are announced to be between 1.7 and 2.2 l/100 km in the combined cycle.

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<!–[if IE 9]><!–[if IE 9]>Mercedes GLC 300 de 4MATIC

In

use, this engine proves to be very pleasant. The performance is more than sufficient, including in electric mode, to allow the GLC to reach 130 km/h without flinching. We covered 40 km in electric mode. That’s not much compared to the latest plug-in hybrids of this size. The big brother GLE 350 even achieves 110 km of electric range in the combined cycle (WLTP).

Once the battery is discharged, fuel consumption is fairly controlled. We found an average of just under 6.3 l/100 km (6.4 l/100 km in the city, 5.4 l/100 km on the highway and 7 l/100 km on the motorway). With a configuration identical to that of our test model, the 220 d 4MATIC version announces a WLTP consumption very close to 6.2 l/100 km, but therefore probably does slightly less well than its ho

mologue plug-in hybrid in real-life conditions. As for the 300 d version, which is closer in performance to our GLC 300 de, it promises a consumption of 6.7 l/100 km in the combined cycle, still with the same options as our test model. The difference in fuel consumption must be even greater with the 300e plug-in hybrid gasoline version, not to mention the higher cost of its fuel.

The GLC 300 de proves to be quite sober for such a vehicle, even if, in absolute terms, its consumption is not that low either, the more than 2 t of this version not helping.

This relative sobriety has the effect of preserving the total autonomy, calculated at 847 km from the consumption data that we collected, despite a tank of only 50 l (including 7 l of reserve). This is far from a record for a diesel model, but it’s still much better than most petrol plug-in hybrids.

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Finally, we can’t talk about the diesel plug-in hybrid without mentioning its environmental impact. Of course, both petrol and diesel engines are bad for the environment, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants. For greenhouse gases, diesel engines have a slight advantage over unleaded. In the case of pollutant emissions, the comparison is more difficult because the emissions are different. The main criticism levelled at diesel cars concerns their nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which are higher than those of petrol models. The impact of these emissions primarily affects urban areas, where plug-in hybrids are supposed to run mainly on electricity.

A solution that has its place in the current automotive landscape

In the end, this plug-in hybrid diesel offer is quite convincing, with controlled consumption and a preserved range. It should be noted that plug-in hybrids are eligible for the Crit’Air 1 sticker, while other new diesel cars are classified as Crit’Air 2. It is therefore possible that plug-in hybrids will still be able to drive in Paris in 2024, as well as in other cities restricting traffic to Crit’Air 1 stickers and electric vehicles.

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The Mercedes GLC 300 de is priced from €63,800, which is €1,800 more than the 300 e petrol plug-in hybrid. The difference to conventional diesel models is also limited: €5,000 more than the GLC 220 d 4MATIC and €3,000 more than the GLC 300 d 4MATIC. If you add the deductible to which these versions are subject, the difference with the plug-in hybrid is even smaller and may even be in favour of the 300 d version, depending on the configuration chosen.