The all-new Mercedes B-class is set to shake up car industry convention when it is launched late this year thanks to its ability to accommodate up to five different drivetrains in the same basic platform.
As well as a conventional diesel and petrol engines, the Mercedes B-class will also be offered with pure battery power, with hydrogen fuel cell power, natural gas and as a range-extender with both a battery pack and three-cylinder engine/generator.
The gas tanks and battery packs are packaged inside a sandwich floor layout, similar to the one used by the outgoing B-class model. While the new B-class platform is conventional in its front wheel drive layout, for the alternative fuel versions the floors of the rear footwells are raised by around 80mm, creating a sizeable void in which can be fitted smaller gas tanks and battery packs.
The larger tanks used to store hydrogen and natural gas fit under the rear seats in the space used by the conventional fuel tank.
The flexibility of the new Mercedes B-class MPV will give Mercedes the ability to sell the car globally, but equipped with alternative drivetrains that suit local market conditions. Natural gas, for example, is becoming increasingly popular in European city centres that are banning diesel-powered vehicles such as taxis.
The conventionally-engined B-class models gain all-new petrol and diesel engines as well as a new 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol motors offer 120bhp and 154bhp and a remarkable, diesel-like, torque curve which sees the twist action hit its peak at just 1250rpm.