Mercedes-Benz could be the first to sell a diesel hybrid in the U.S. with its E-class mid-size sedan. Herbert Kohler, chief environment officer of Daimler, told us in an interview that Americans would likely be able to purchase an E300 BlueTec Hybrid in the near future.
The diesel hybrid will launch first in Europe in 2011, but could eventually come to the U.S. if diesel vehicles continue to find buyers in the U.S.
“If we see the ongoing momentum in the US market for diesel, like we saw in the last 18 months, we will go in that direction,” Kohler said, in reference to bringing the car to the States. “At the moment, I would say yes, it will come.”
The E300 BlueTec Hybrid would mate a 200-hp, 2.2-liter diesel with a 20-hp electric motor and lithium-ion battery. Fuel economy has been reported as high as 46 mpg on the European cycle.
Germany’s three luxury automakers—Audi, BMW, and Mercedes—have introduced a handful of diesel vehicles to the U.S. market recently, but sales have been biased toward larger SUVs. Kohler said that a change in the EPA’s stance has encouraged automakers to bring diesel here.
“Five to eight years ago, EPA was totally against diesel in the U.S., due the high emissions,” he said. “Then we proposed the [urea injection] technology and could demonstrate those cars could really fulfill the stringent EPA and CARB requirements.”
That reduction in emissions is what has pulled the EPA on-board with diesel vehicles, according to Kohler. In fact, the EPA’s director for the Office of Transportation and Air Quality had met with Kohler just an hour before we did, and wanted an answer to the same question: Will the U.S. get the diesel hybrid E-class?
With that kind of blessing from the government, it can only be a matter of time before a diesel hybrid arrives.