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Mercedes' S550e plug-in hybrid will soon be able to charge wirelessly

Charging cords can be a hassle when it comes to phones, laptops, and tablets, and it’s no different for cars. Several companies have developed wireless charging systems for cars, and several automakers have experimented with them. But Mercedes-Benz may be the first to actually offer the technology on a production model.

Among many green technology announcements made this week, the German carmaker confirmed that it will offer wireless charging on the 2017 S550e plug-in hybrid. The new features will be timed with a mid-cycle refresh of the big luxury sedan, which is sold as the S500e in Europe. The car will come standard with a conventional charging cable, with wireless charging available as an option.

Mercedes says it’s been testing the system on a fleet of S500e mules since last year. It consists of a coil mounted on the underside of the car, and a base plate that is placed on the floor of a garage or parking spot. Running electricity through a coil in the base plate creates a magnetic field, allowing current to be transferred to the plate in the car without any physical connection.

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The systems is fully automatic, Mercedes says. The driver checks whether the car is positioned correctly over the base plate using a display on the dashboard screen, and charging starts as soon as the car is in the right spot. The system charges at up to 3.6 kilowatts, and Mercedes claims an efficiency rate of almost 90 percent for the transfer of power from base plate to car.

In addition to wireless charging, Mercedes is doubling down on DC fast charging for cars with conventional plugs. DC fast charging stations can typically charge a car to 80 percent of capacity in around 30 minutes, but they’re also less common than the slower “Level 2” AC stations. Nonetheless, Mercedes says that by 2018 it will offer DC fast charging capability as standard equipment on all of its electric cars.

This is part of a larger push by Mercedes to electrify its entire lineup with a combination of hybrids (including a new 48-volt mild hybrid powertrain), plug-in hybrids, and battery-electric cars. Next year, Mercedes will also launch the GLC F-Cell, a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle with a supplementary lithium-ion battery pack.