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Next-generation Mercedes-Benz Sprinter to get battery electric drive?

Mercedes-Benz looks to be joining the charge with Tesla to offer electric vans with the next-generation Sprinter likely to offer an electric drivetrain.

VOLKSWAGEN HAS been teasing the world for years about its will-it, won’t-it build an electric minibus and now it would seem the rug has been taken out from underneath it with Tesla boss, Elon Musk announcing Tesla would build an electric van based on the Model X.

And now Mercedes-Benz has hinted that its next-generation Sprinter will offer electric and autonomous drive options. And this is only moments after Volkswagen revealed its new Crafter commercial vehicle.

Speaking with the Detroit Bureau, Ulf Zillig, who is head of project VS30 which is code for the next-generation Sprinter, said the new Sprinter would be out in 2018 and that it would have the same dimensions as the current Sprinter.  He also suggested that it could use electric drivetrains and get autonomous driving technology.

This wouldn’t be the first time Mercedes-Benz has offered an all-electric commercial vehicle, it previously sold the Metris in the US (which we know as the Vito E-Cell) which had an electric drivetrain. According to Mercedes-Benz that car was welcomed but sales tapered off in the US… but with cities all around the world looking to improve their air quality and with growing electric vehicle charging infrastructure the time might finally be right for the reintroduction of around-town electric commercial vehicles.

Speaking at the launch of the Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck last week, Wolfgang Bernhard, the executive responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, said the development of electric vehicles is part of the company’s effort to build on its “technological leadership”. For this purpose, a considerable part of the future investments by the truck division in the fields of research and development flow in the further development of the full electric drive, he said.

“Electric drive systems previously only saw extremely limited use in trucks. Nowadays costs, performance and charging times develop further so rapidly that now there is a trend reversal in the distribution sector: the time is ripe for the electric truck. In light distribution trucks, our Fuso Canter E-Cell has already been undergoing intensive customer trials since 2014.”

Question: Although the world has been slow to buy electric cars, could the production of electric commercial vehicles, say, aimed at around-town couriers and the like, be the way forward with the electric vehicle push. Surely, charging infrastructure would be easier to develop in major cities, and with tradesman and delivery drivers using electric vehicles the air quality in congested cities, like Sydney, would surely improve.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober