BERLIN -- Daimler head Ola Kallenius defended plug-in-hybrid cars from critics who say the vehicles' environmental friendliness is overstated.
Green activist groups say plug-in hybrids, which combine an electric drivetrain with a combustion engine, are mostly driven in non-electric mode, sometimes making their CO2 emissions higher than combustion engine cars because their greater weight makes them use more fuel.
In an interview with Automotive News Europe, Kallenius said the long electric range of the latest generation of plug-in-hybrid vehicles means they will be driven in electric, emissions-free mode more often.
"When it comes to plug-in hybrids, we are now on the third generation of those cars, but a lot of the talk about them is still based on data from the first generation where the batteries were smaller and the range was shorter," he said.
He said as customers are offered a longer range, they will use plug-in hybrids much more in the spirit as they were intended.
"Many customers can drive back and forth to work for the whole week in full-electric mode," Kallenius said.
For example, the latest Mercedes C-Class plug-in hybrid can be driven for 100 km (62 miles) on electric power alone-- twice as far as its predecessor, thanks in part to a more powerful battery.
Kallenius said customers who use the "Mercedes me" app can opt in to share their fuel consumption data to see where they rank according to their real driving.
To make eco-driving more appealing, the company has launched an app and designed some gaming graphics in the instrument cluster to encourage customers to drive in an energy-efficient way.
"Along with technologically mastering this challenge, we are also looking to change people's driving behavior by encouraging them and working with them during this journey," he said.
- Read the full interview with Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius here.