The one car missing from Mercedes-Benz' original BlueZERO invasion at this year's Detroit Auto Show has finally broken cover on its way to Frankfurt. Called the BlueZERO E-CELL Plus, it's a concept vehicle Mercedes repeatedly refers to in its press release as being "near-series." This "Plus" variant takes up where the E-CELL left off, adding a range-extending three-cylinder 1.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine to replenish the advanced liquid-cooled Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack that provides energy to its 136-horsepower electric motor. That upgrade increases the range of the E-CELL Plus to 600 km (372 mi) and allows this compact front-driver to operate in zero-emission pure-electric mode for up to 100 km (62 mi). For the record, that's triple the range of the EV-only BlueZERO E-CELL and a 50 percent increase beyond the hydrogen-powered BlueZERO F-CELL concept. Like its BlueZERO brethren, the E-CELL Plus is a front driver that uses M-B's modular sandwich-floor architecture to enhance both its powertrain/cabin packaging and passenger safety.
No word yet as to exactly what "near-series" translates into with respect to an actual production launch, but this new "Plus" package definitely looks ready to go on pretty short notice. With similar vehicles -- most notably the Chevy Volt and Toyota Plug-in Prius -- now in the pipeline, we could see Mercedes release the first test fleet of E-CELL Plus models within the next 12 months.