It was some seventy years ago when Mercedes launched the first diesel engine in a series production vehicle. No one will ever know if back then it was ever thought that the technology would be both so scrutinized and so promising today.
It was a chilly afternoon on Oct 21 when Dieter Zeitche, head of the Mercedes Car Group, waved the flag to start a monumental long-distance marathon from Paris, France to Beijing. Taking part in the event are 36 Mercedes E-Class vehicles which are powered by clean diesel engines. The marathon is intended to demonstrate the global potential of the new technologies the German carmaker is utilizing for its diesel powerplants.
"The long-distance route from Paris to Beijing is not about speed. Rather, the sporting challenge for the participants is to achieve the lowest possible consumption on the individual stages and across the overall distance" Zeitche said. He adds "we want to demonstrate again the high level of performance of the modern diesel engine in terms of emission, economy and range, even under the most extreme conditions."
The marathon, which takes place over two continents and several stages, will see 360 drivers from 35 countries take the wheel while covering a combined distance of nearly half a million kilometers. The route takes drivers through France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Kazakhstan to China. The route closely shadows that of the first transcontinental car race which used the same two cities as start and destination locations nearly 100 years ago.
The reason for the race back then?
To prove the superiority of the automobile to the horse. The winner, an Italian aristocrat named Scipione Borghese took two months to complete the course. The Mercedes "E-Class Challenge" convoy is scheduled to cross the finish line on November 17, 2006.
The fleet of vehicles includes 33 E-320 CDI models, some of which are fitted with Mercedes all wheel drive 4MATIC system for added traction in all weather conditions. Additionally, 3 BLUETEC powered models will participate. The forward-looking technology makes it the cleanest diesel engine in the world, according to Mercedes Benz.
On sale since October 15 in the USA, the BLUETEC engine uses up to 30 percent less fuel than a comparable gasoline powered model. With a range of up to 1200 kilometres on a single tank of fuel, it is an ideal candidate for the marathon.
With the international diesel market heating up and showing off more and more advanced technologies making it cleaner, more efficient and more appealing to mass markets, Mercedes and other forerunners are set to pave the way to a new, cleaner era for the fuel.