Mercedes wants to help save the world – and itself

‘Ambition 2039’ is the name given to the German luxury carmaker’s efforts to reboot its business with sustainability at its core

Oslo, Norway

Mercedes-Benz has announced its new 20-year-plan for a radical restructuring of its business to transform into an ‘emissions-free mobility’ by 2039.

The plan, dubbed ‘Ambition 2039’ (you can read about it in this blog post here) was unveiled by Daimler AG board member, Mr Ola Kallenius (pictured below), at the brand’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany on May 13, 2019.

It’s certainly a welcome move. As science presenter Bill Nye says, “The planet is on f***** fire” and mankind needs to act, and this plan is one of the most comprehensive proposals seen thus far.

Ambition 2039 as a ‘concrete milestone of a holistic, sustainable corporate strategy Mercedes-Benz Cars’ lays out various goals and organising principles for the brand moving forward.

Mr Kallenius, who is the board member currently helming Daimler AG’s research and development efforts, is also appointed to replace current Chairman Dieter Zetsche as head of Daimler AG, when Mr Zetsche retires.

He added details to the Ambition 2039 announcement as part of his address (above) to the international media, including CarBuyer Singapore, at the international press test drive of the new Mercedes-Benz EQC (our review goes live on Wednesday, May 15, 0600h GMT+8).  

1.“We aim to have a carbon-netral new passenger car fleet in 20 years.”

More details emerged on Mercedes’ electrification plan: By 2025 there will be no purely gasoline models and all combustion-engine-powered Mercedes-Benzes will have 48V power and mild hybrid systems for energy recuperation, better performance and efficiency. Current plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the E 300e will be joined by entry-level PHEVs, presumably something like a plug-in CLA-Class ‘with a WLTP range of 70km’, and  Mercedes-AMG performance hybrids with the EQ Power+ designation. Additionally, by 2030, more than half of Mercedes-Benz models sold will be PHEVs or EVs.

“That’s the minimum you will see from Mercedes in future, all the way from the A-Class to S-Class,” said Kallenius.

2. “We will be technology agnostic, and let engineers’ ingenuity and the market decide what is best.”

PHEVs like this Mercedes-Benz E 300e will become more common – but batteries aren’t the only solution at hand

Mr Kallenius also, befitting an R&D head, espouses a balanced approach to technology adoption.

Instead of simply picking a technology and going with it at all costs – which is what happened with diesel power – he said Mercedes would be ‘technology agnostic’, or neutral. He pointed out that while battery technology will improve greatly in the next few years, fuel cell tech is also a ‘serious candidate’, and that Mercedes was already testing commercially-viable solutions for fuel-cell buses.

3. Tackling the other sides of the coin

A carmaker takes its own technology and parts from suppliers, makes a car, then sells it to customers. In the past, both the supplier and customer would be SEPs ‘someone else’s problem’ after that. But Mr Kallenius outlines a switch in this approach, one that forces increased responsibility on the supplier side of things, while also influencing buyer behaviour, and car production itself.

Increased analysis of the supply chain and its environmental impacts, establishing CO2 targets as a criteria for successful supplier contracts.

Carbon neutral car plants for all of Mercedes’ European factories – an example is a new Factory 56 in Sindelfingen, which is CO2 neutral and runs on renewables.

Half the carbon footprint of a Mercedes-Benz EQC comes from the owner’s usage itself, which is why Mercedes is investing in charge networks like Ionity (along with BMW Group, VW Group and Ford) so it can ensure the use of renewables.

Kallenius called upon “auto industry, energy suppliers and policy makers’ to work  hand in hand as success “requires massive investments and tangible action also beyond the auto sector”.

4. No green dream without the greenbacks

There was a lot of ‘watch this space’ in the announcement, but it was also grounded in realism, with the drive to make environmentally-friendly cars cheaper, and to maintain profitability.

Producing electrified vehicles is currently more expensive than combustion engine ones, he acknowledged, and that it would “take several years for product costs to match the economies of scale we had with combustion engines. For long term we have to drive product costs down, and it’s a number one priority for us to make this transition viably.”

To do that and maintain profitability is, Kallenius admits, a huge challenge, but one that he’s confident that Daimler and Mercedes’ technology base and engineer talent is strong enough to conquer. So much so that ‘part of the compensation’ for the board is linked to sustainability goals, including CO2 footprint.

Mercedes’s dream of ‘mobility without emissions’ is certainly lofty, but not without foundation stones for a castle in the (bluer) sky.  

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong