The New Front in the Mercedes-BMW Fight: Plug-in Hybrid SUVs

As gas prices continue rising and predictions of climate disaster grow more dire by the day, America’s leaders haven’t been quick to respond. In fact, members of the Republican Party have been actively working to slow down green vehicle sales.

That’s exactly what would happen if the proposal by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) passed through Congress. Barrasso, who’s No. 2 donor is the Chevron Corporation, not coincidentally wants to end the electric vehicle tax credit.

Meanwhile, the state of Mississippi began taxing hybrid and EV drivers since they don’t pay regular gasoline taxes (which is the point of paying a premium for an economical car). In both cases, GOP leaders are attempting to tax people into using more gas.

Yet automakers around the world continue working in the opposite direction. By 2020, the U.S. market will see a major wave of electric SUVs and sedans arriving. Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW will all have EVs in that shipment (as will Kia and Hyundai on the low end).

However, that’s not the only fight Mercedes and BMW will have in this space. According to the latest reports on the brands’ upcoming plug-in hybrids, both German automakers will have long-range PHEVs headed to the market in SUV form.

Mercedes-Benz GLE plug-in: 62 miles on EV power (WLTP)

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE | Mercedes-Benz

On October 15, Autoweek reported a promising EV range for the upcoming Mercedes GLE plug-in hybrid: 62 miles on the WLTP cycle. That mark would put the GLE well beyond every crossover PHEV on the current U.S. market. Only the Kia Niro PHEV comes close to 30 miles, while the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV manages 22 miles.

According to the Autoweek report, a Mercedes rep confirmed that range would be for the WLTP cycle. In the U.S., that mark typically comes down over 10-20%, but there is still room to work with.

If the plug-in GLE surpassed the excellent Honda Clarity PHEV (48 miles), that would be quite an accomplishment for Mercedes. At that level of range, consumers hardly need to use gasoline.

In its way, it would be as appealing as the upcoming EQC, the all-electric crossover Benz, and it would arrive in late 2019. Naturally, BMW has an answer.

BMW X5 plug-in hybrid: 50 miles (WLTP)

BMW X5 xDrive45e iPerformance | BMW

The announcement by Mercedes came about a month after a related one from BMW, when the automaker revealed its next X5 plug-in hybrid would feature 80 km (50 miles) on the WLTP cycle. This model, dubbed the impossible X5 xDrive45e iPerformance, would make it to market by 2019, the automaker said in a statement.

Both the Bimmer and Benz would have appropriate acceleration and power specs; both have style; and both would increase their EV-only top speeds. If delivered close to the quoted ranges, they would immediately offer an alternative to Tesla’s all-electric Model X. The appeal for both would be clear: mostly electric driving in a luxury SUV, without the worries of finding a charger.

Whereas the EV market has a well-established high end with Tesla, the plug-in-hybrid section is currently ruled by GM (with the Chevrolet Volt) and Honda. BMW and Mercedes would not only be competing in a new space; the two automakers would be elevating it while bringing bona fide green vehicles to the market.

Next up: Convince Congress to keep the tax credits long enough so consumers can buy them. With transportation emissions continuing to fuel climate change, we need all the EVs we can get.