Mercedes Is Making Its Big Electric Push. Here’s What That Means For Maybach.
A few weeks ago, Mercedes-Benz revealed its new global strategy update, and it seems like a lot is going to change in the coming years. Overall, most changes seem relatively dismal: the growth of profits, growing the customer base, reshaping the product portfolio, etc.
We've summarized the most important takeaways and Maybach-related news.
However, there are some headline-grabbing changes being made, most important of which is Mercedes will be joining the growing number of automakers making substantial investments into electric vehicles. AMG is going to be electrified, there is going to be an electric variant of the G-Wagen, the EQ sub-brand will receive a barrage of new models, and Maybach will be doubling in size and going electric. Other plans include having 50% of Mercedes sales being xEV’s by 2030, and Mercedes-Benz being a carbon-neutral automaker by 2039. With emissions regulations getting stricter, fuel getting more expensive, and the projected rapid growth of EV’s in the next decade, this plan makes perfect sense.
Going all-electric and doubling in size are radical departures from what Maybach has been doing for the last decade, but neither are surprising. Mercedes has been dipping its toes in the EV waters since 2016, with the previous three Maybach concept vehicles being electric and such. The recent release of the Maybach GLS600 was also a good indicator that Mercedes wants to increase Maybach’s sales volume, given how hot the global market is for SUVs.
One important thing to note about EV’s is that right now they are not perfect. Battery costs are high, electric vehicles are extremely heavy, and the range tends to be an issue. And while Mercedes has been tight-lipped about some of its future EV products, they did reveal how they plan to solve some of the current drawbacks to electric vehicles. Mercedes’ five-step plan to increase range is to drop weight, lower the drag coefficient, lower the rolling resistance, lower the power draw from auxiliary systems, and improve drivetrain efficiency. One of the most interesting parts of this plan is the new Mercedes developed electric drivetrain. Two unique features of this new setup are the two-speed transmission and the dog clutch. A two-speed transmission is currently rare in modern EV’s, though there is a good reason why Mercedes would use one. A major part of modern driving is done on freeways, however, this happens to be electric vehicle kryptonite. Electric vehicles are able to recuperate some of their range when braking by using the electric motors as a generator, capturing kinetic energy normally lost in a gasoline car and putting it back into the battery. Take away red lights, roundabouts, and other braking points not found on highways and you lose opportunities to regain battery life. This is why in EPA testing, a rear-wheel-drive Tesla Model 3 long-range goes 33 miles longer in the city than it does on the highway. A two-speed transmission helps mitigate some of these losses. You can have a short first gear to keep the organ-rearranging acceleration EVs are known for, and a tall second gear for ultimate efficiency. It’s a win-win which makes the drivetrain a good fit for both high-performance and efficiency-oriented applications. The dog clutch is also extremely rare not only in EV transmissions but also in any normal automatic transmission. There’s a very good reason why Mercedes would use a dog clutch though, which is that it increases range. Dog clutches engage not using friction but instead interference. No friction occurs after the clutch is engaged, which increases drivetrain efficiency. Further, dog clutches also produce less heat than a conventional clutch, which requires less power to cool, which then, in turn, reduces power draw, in turn increasing range. Mercedes targets for this drivetrain are ambitious. On Europe’s WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure) cycle Mercedes is targeting a range of over 700 kilometers or 435 miles.
So what does this mean for Maybach?
Beyond going electric and doubling in size, Mercedes has been rather coy about what Maybach’s electric future entails. Because Maybachs use Mercedes platforms, we can assume that all the new architecture and engineering revealed will also be shared with the Maybach sub-brand. If I had to ascertain a guess as to what Maybach is planning for the future, I would say that Maybach would play with the EQS, meddle with the electric G-Wagon, and put the vision of ultimate luxury into production. An electric Maybach based on the EQS seems likely.
Given how Maybach's bread and butter are ultra-lux sedans, it seems shortsighted for Mercedes to not produce an EQS based Maybach super cruiser. Plus, the length that Maybach usually adds for passengers could allow for a larger battery, alleviating any range of woes that prospective customers may have. An electric Maybach G-Wagen could be a possibility, given that Maybach has created special edition G-Wagons in the past. The most interesting product would be the production version of the ultimate luxury concept. Nobody knows how much of the concept would actually carry over to a production vehicle, however, its wacky styling could play to its advantage. Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Maybach all have super SUVs in production, however, if the ultimate luxury went into production, it would be the first mega luxury sports activity coupe available for sale. And given how well cars like the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE coupe sell, there’s definitely a market for it.
Going electric could be hugely advantageous for a sub-brand like Maybach. More obviously, electric cars are whisper quiet. The task of engineering a car quieter than a church mouse gets significantly easier with an electric powertrain. Less obviously, electric cars are glorified skateboards. Engineers and designers no longer have to package transmission tunnels, fuel tanks, driveshafts, and large engines. This opens up the interior and allows designers to do whatever the hell they want. So far all of Maybachs EV vision concepts have had airy and spacious interiors. And no longer having to focus on packaging an engine allows designers to package weirder stuff, like tea kettles!
Long story short, this is a very smart move by Mercedes and it’s going to be a very interesting new direction for Maybach. It’s going to be very exciting to see what they will present and launch.