When the Mercedes-Benz Concept BlueZERO is unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, it will be a showcase for Daimler's plan to offer customers modular hybrid powertrains.
The BlueZERO concepts offer a peek at one way Daimler is approaching the problem, by going completely modular on the powertrains, divorcing platform and powertrain development, so one motivation source can be swapped for another with very little cost. In the BlueZERO concepts, Mercedes is using the sandwich floor concept it developed for their A-Class to house the drivetrain components. This approach keeps heavy batteries and engines down low, improving vehicle dynamics while maintaining cabin space and crash safety.
We've seen this modular powertrain idea before in the Chevy Volt, with its easy swap T-pack battery and engine bay designed to accept a range of options from an additional battery to a fuel cell to the internal combustion engine that will be coming to market. This BlueZERO concept seems to have taken this concept and refined it for reductions in manufacturing costs. It looks good on paper, and sounds great in a press release, but Daimler has been showing off whiz-bang concepts like this for a while now, and still sells S600's pretty happily, so we'll maintain our healthy skepticism at the balance of public relations versus reality.