Mercedes will integrate internal combustion engines into a new electric vehicle platform

Automakers have taken a variety of approaches to address the transition to building electric vehicles. The crossover period saw many vehicles originally built with traditional engines revamped with electric transmissions instead. However, as reported by Engine1, the reverse may soon be true, with Mercedes set to build future internal combustion vehicles on platforms explicitly designed for all-electric propulsion.

Automakers have explored converting ICE platforms to electric drive; the Fiat 500e and the Mini Cooper SE are two obvious examples. However, these vehicles have ranges of less than 150 miles, as fitting a decent sized battery in such a car proves difficult. The packaging requirements for batteries and electric motors are quite distinct from those for gasoline or diesel drives, and so the best results are achieved when a car is designed as an EV from the start.

Mercedes is taking a largely pared-back approach for upcoming electric models. Designing an EV platform with plenty of space for batteries helps with range, which remains a top concern for EV buyers in the United States. It also allows for proper consideration of factors such as battery and motor cooling and other elements that affect efficiency and performance.

According to Christoph Starzynski, Mercedes’ vice president of development for electric propulsion, the next A-Class and B-Class will come with electric and ICE powertrains. However, Mercedes is reluctant to compromise the design of the next MMA platform in the name of internal combustion.

“The platform will be EV first but not EV exclusive,” Starzynski said, adding that “the trade-off will be on the ICE side, not the EV side.” The MMA platform is set to debut in 2024, underpinning a series of compact Mercedes vehicles. Along with Class A and Class B, it should serve as the basis for the GLA and GLB SUVs as well as the CLA fastback.

In part, Mercedes continues to offer ICE options on these compact models due to the higher cost of electric vehicles right now. “We have to deal with higher costs on an EV drivetrain over the next few years, and we have to look for compensation in the vehicle,” Starzynski said.

Installing an internal combustion engine in a platform optimized for electric drive will certainly come with challenges. Engineers will need to find enough room for the fuel tank, route the exhaust and ensure there is enough airflow through the radiator to keep the engine cool. Grilleless designs are popular on EVs, as seen on the Mercedes-Benz EQS, and can make that last requirement quite difficult. However, it is not impossible to manage. Cars like the Fox-body Mustang were content with a grilleless design, relying on a lower-mounted air duct for cooling purposes.

This decision shows that Mercedes is committed to moving quickly to electric. At the same time, the automaker recognizes that there is still a need to sell some traditional ICE-powered vehicles at this time. Of course, in a model generation or two, such compromises may be a distant memory.

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Kevin A. Perras