Mercedes-Benz is confident it will have the first volume hybrid model powered by lithium-ion batteries, when it launches the S400 BlueHYBRID next year. The new car will feature a 15kW electric motor mated to 3.5L petrol V6 for a combined output of 220kW and 375Nm of torque – enough to propel the car from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds while consuming just 7.9L/100km (30mpg).

Interestingly, some of the car’s key components weren’t developed solely by Mercedes-Benz and are scheduled to be sourced from outside suppliers. The new electric motors, for example, will be sourced from gearbox specialist ZF. The advanced lithium-ion batteries, meanwhile, are courtesy of Continental.

ZF will start building the electric motors late this year for the hybrid S-Class, which itself is due to enter production in early 2009. The new motor is designed as an integrated starter-generator and connects to the engine where a traditional torque converter would, reports AutoWeek.

This setup lets the S-Class run on electric power alone at low speeds, while providing a boost to the petrol V6 during high load and switching to regeneration mode and charging the batteries under braking. ZF will initially build 35,000 units per year but will ramp this up to 200,000 units as more hybrid models are launched.