Källenius describes this as a crucial milestone on the road, but not the only one. “Let's not forget our plug-in hybrids: both the new S 560 e, the GLC F-CELL with a fuel cell drive system and the performance hybrid study Mercedes-AMG Project ONE use electricity from the power socket, but not exclusively. We call it EQ Power. In future we shall continue to extend our plug-in hybrid portfolio systematically. But that is not all. With the launch of the 48-volt on-board electrical system in combination with starter generators we are now launching electrical drive system components on a broad front and thus continually enhancing the efficiency of our combustion engines.

On the road to emission-free driving we are continuing to pursue a three-lane drive system strategy: we are focusing on highly efficient high-tech combustion engines, systematic hybridisation and battery-electric or fuel cell drive. We are quite consciously establishing ourselves on a broad basis in view of our extensive vehicle portfolio and the mobility requirements of our customers.”

Källenius, however, is convinced that the combustion engine will still be around for a long time to come. “In the year 2025 we are looking at a sales share of up to 25% for the purely battery-electric cars. This automatically means that at least 75% will still have a combustion engine on board - also combined with electric, naturally.”

There is a future also for diesel engines. Källenius said: “We still need the diesel and in future we shall continue to advance its further development. It has an advantage regarding CO2 emissions and this source of power is still relevant in goods transport, as well as in numerous markets, above all in Europe. With our newly developed premium diesel family we have proven that diesel can be clean.”

The Smart brand is planning to convert its model range entirely to electric drive by 2020 in Europe and the USA. When will the corresponding battery-electric models from Mercedes-Benz follow?

Källenius said: “All the signals are on green here now. With our new product and technology brand EQ not only are we starting a purely electric model initiative; we are also gradually establishing an electro-mobile ecosystem which includes the necessary charging infrastructure. We are investing more than ten billion euros in the expansion of our EQ vehicle portfolio alone.

The first half of 2019 will initially see the launch of the EQ SUV, which we will be calling the EQC. By 2022 we will have launched a total of more than 10 purely electrically driven vehicles. Over and above this we shall electrify the entire Mercedes-Benz portfolio and thus offer our customers at least one electrified alternative in every Mercedes-Benz model series, over 50 in all. We offer the customer the choice – depending on their individual preference and needs.

Källenius added that fuel cell is and remains an interesting technology on the road to zero emissions. “The GLC F-CELL is an integral part of our electric initiative. With the world premiere of the pre-series vehicles we have just recently taken a major step. Market launch is planned for next year. The high range thanks to the combination of the fuel cell and battery, short charging times and the everyday suitability of an SUV will make it the ideal companion. A real Mercedes – purely electric!”

Daimler is investing in establishing a coordinated global battery production network including the construction of a second factory for batteries at the Accumotive subsidiaryin Kamenz (Saxony). There are further sites in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, Beijing and Alabama. In total the carmaker is aiming for a production capacity of one million batteries per annum.

Källenius said: “Initially we will stay with the lithium-ion technology. In the coming years there will be further evolutionary increases in performance. But if a 10, 20 or even 30% increase in performance could be achieved, this would be quite something. Bigger leaps still are possible with the launch of post-lithium-ion technology, for example lithium-sulphur or solid-state batteries, but from today's perspective not within the next five years.

“We are thinking in terms of intelligently networked charging solutions right from the outset, because customer acceptance is closely linked to the availability of an appropriate infrastructure. We want to make our customer a holistic premium offer in the field of electric mobility. Whether that's for charging at home, at work, on the road or ultra-fast: we are taking a close look at all scenarios and positioning ourselves on a broad basis with selected partnerships and co-operations. Together with BMW, Ford and the Volkswagen Group, for example, we are working in a joint venture on setting up the most powerful charging network at major European transport axes.”