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  • The Mercedes-Benz electric vans during eDrive@VANs next level 2018 in Hamburg.
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    Electric vans à la carte.

    The new electric vans were customised to meet the needs of a broad range of customers. Precise analyses of specific challenges flowed into the development process.

New generation of electric vans.

Daimler deliberately took a new approach as it developed its new generation of electric vans. Long before the market launch of the eVito and the eSprinter, Daimler conducted direct talks to find out and analyse customers’ wishes and expectations. The result is a range of commercial vehicles that are made to measure for a wide spectrum of applications. These electric-drive models can be used by large fleet operators as well as by individual companies and tradespeople with much smaller fleets. The eVito will be launched on the market in autumn, and the eSprinter will follow suit next year.

Local zero-emissions mobility: The Mercedes-Benz eSprinter in action in the city.
Sketch of the Mercedes-Benz electric van eSprinter.

What range is actually needed?

“We already started to talk to our customers two years before the market launch of the eVito because we wanted to know what basic expectations they had concerning an electric van. Of course the conversation began with the obvious questions about the van’s range and battery capacity. The traditional commercial vehicle parameters such as load capacity and payload also played a major role,” says eDrive@Vans Product Manager Markus Reis. That’s the theoretical side of the equation. In order to meet the customers’ real needs as precisely as possible, the Daimler technicians worked together with potential customers to analyse the routes they drive on a daily basis with conventionally powered vehicles.

Electrifying the fleet.

“In this way we wanted to find out how our vehicle’s technology had to be designed in order to represent these driving profiles with an electric system,” said Reis concerning this phase of development. The results of this analysis flowed into the development process, and when the first test vehicles were ready, a number of models were provided to customers for testing in daily use. The designers wanted to see how the solutions they had developed actually measured up to the wear and tear of day-to-day use. “Again and again, we would try to find out what was working well and what wasn’t,” Reis explained. During this phase of testing, all the parameters of the vehicles were scrutinised, from the range and the payload to the charging capacity and charging time. “At the same time, we investigated and analysed the infrastructure at the customers’ locations to see whether the existing power lines were adequate for electrifying their fleets,” he added.

Electrification of the fleet: The Mercedes-Benz eVito is charged at a charging station.

Electric mobility with the eVan Ready app.

The new eVito has a battery capacity of 41 kWh, which gives it a range of 150 kilometres. The charging time is six hours at a connected load of 7.2 kW AC. The preparatory investigations for the eSprinter ultimately led to the offer of two different ranges: 150 kilometres and 115 kilometres. “We learned that there are customers for whom a vehicle’s payload is more important than its range. By contrast, other interested customers said they needed a greater range and a lower payload,” Reis said.

The team developed a free-of-charge smartphone app (eVan Ready) to provide additional support for customers’ transition to electric mobility. The app can be downloaded from the App Stores. If the customer uses the app during daily drives in any vehicle, the app records the route and then calculates how much of this route can be driven with an eVito.

Side view of the Mercedes-Benz eSprinter.

Customised electric vans.

Designing customised electric vans also requires clearly defining the profiles of the various applications. For example, the needs of a logistics provider who is driving the last mile in an urban environment are completely different from those of a tradesman during his working day. Whereas the vehicles of an urban delivery company have to constantly be on the move, a tradesman’s van often has to be parked for a long time at a construction site, where it theoretically might also make use of a charging station. For fleets of six vehicles or more, a location check was carried out to find out whether the local power supply was adequate to the needs of an electric fleet or, alternatively, what measures were still necessary to expand the grid connection.

Switching to alternative drive systems.

It’s obvious that all of these precise preparations have been worthwhile. “The customers’ feedback regarding the eVito has been completely positive,” Reis reported. In addition to fleet customers and tradespeople, municipalities and public authorities are also interested in the new drive system. Interest in electric mobility has also received a boost from the current discussion of future driving bans. “This development has made the public much more aware of electric mobility. As a result, it’s noticeable that more people are now thinking about switching to alternative drive systems,” said Reis.

Local zero-emissions mobility: The Mercedes Benz eVito in urban use.
Local zero-emissions mobility: The Mercedes Benz eSprinter is fit for urban life.

Acceleration with the absence of engine noise.

He added that many customers have realised that switching to electric vans will not require them to make any sacrifices: “The cargo capacity has remained the same compared to combustion-engine models. The only difference is that some routes may have to be adapted in line with the new drive system.” However, that process will be made easier by the eVan Ready app, which precisely analyses the routes. According to Reis, many drivers are thrilled by the handling properties of the electric vans: “Some drivers even tell us that driving an electric van is simply more fun. You only get the fast acceleration from the very start and the complete absence of engine noise with an electric van.”

A glimpse into the future.

How will the electrification process continue in the future? The next step in the electrification of vans can be seen in the Concept Sprinter F-CELL. This prototype, which has been designed as a camper van, exemplifies all the advantages of hydrogen drive, which is especially suitable for longer courier runs.

The Concept Sprinter F-CELL combines a fuel-cell drive system with a plug-in hybrid that has a system output of approximately 147 kW. By installing an enlarged hydrogen tank in the rear area, the range can be increased from about 300 kilometres to 530 kilometres. That offers more leeway for creating customised models.