by Dan Gilkes
There are a growing number of companies keen to adopt, or at least trial, electric vans. Indeed, it would appear that there are more potential customers than vans available at the moment.
Manufacturers are rushing to fill the void, but it takes time to bring totally new vans to market, even if those vehicles are converted from existing diesel models.
Health crisis aside, if that is possible, this should be the year when manufacturers start to catch up with that increasing demand, with many launching EVs over the coming months.
While there have been a few smaller electric vans available for a while, along with some heavier models, the mid-weight market has been the last to take on electric drive. That is now changing, with three vans from the PSA companies Peugeot, Citroën and Vauxhall due in 2020, a new smaller EV from Maxus, an electric VW Transporter and this eVito from Mercedes-Benz.
Unlike with heavier commercials, that have been able to increase maximum weight to 4.2-tonnes for a car licence holder, the majority of mid-weight vans will call time at 3.2-tonnes. Therefore, if you want to carry the best part of a tonne in payload, you will need to ration the batteries.
Some manufacturers are getting around this by offering customers a choice, longer range for lower payload. For now though, Mercedes is concentrating on those customers for whom range is not the priority.
With that in mind, the eVito manages around 93 miles (WLTP) on a single charge, which should be enough for the large majority of urban users and last-mile delivery businesses. The upside is that the van, in L2 form at least, can carry up to 923kg. Opt for the longer bodied L3 van and that drops to around 898kg, though even that should be enough for most home delivery firms.
The eVito is equipped with a Type 2 charging socket, which means that you’ll need up to 6 hours to fully recharge from a 7.2kW wallbox. Plug in to the lower powered 2.3kW outlet and that rises to 20 hours. There is therefore little chance of a top-up during loading and unloading, or on a driver’s break.
The L2 van provides a 6.0m3 load volume, while the longer van has a 6.6m3 load area. The 35kWh battery packs sit below the van floor, with no intrusion into that load area. Double sliding side doors are standard.
The charging point is situated inside the conventional diesel filler cap, which is behind the passenger door. While this might be an elegant solution, rather than cutting more holes in the bodywork, it can create a problem with some public charge points.
I had to access a public Type 2 charging point while we had the van and the fixed cable, which usually plugs into the front or rear of an electric car, wouldn’t physically reach the charge point on the side of the eVito. That meant parking sideways across two bays to get the cable to plug in. I returned to the van to find the inevitable £70 parking ticket, for using two bays rather than one, but managed to convince the traffic warden to take it back when they realised there was no other way to reach.
That said, the vans are offered with a choice of 4m or 8m charging cables for home or depot use, while customers would no doubt configure their own charging area to be at the side of the van rather than the front. Interestingly, the recently revealed eVito Tourer, which has a much bigger battery and driving range, also has its charging point relocated to the front bumper.
There are two trim levels on offer for the eVito. The entry-level Pure specification comes with air conditioning and a heated driver’s seat, heated electric mirrors, tyre pressure monitoring and access to a host of connected vehicle services through Mercedes PRO Connect.
The higher Progressive trim gets an uprated stereo, lumbar support for the driver’s seat, body coloured bumpers, folding wing mirrors, front fog lights and a 75mph speed limiter.
Not that this is meant to be a motorway express. Drive it at higher highway speeds for any amount of time and the battery range falls rapidly. The van is meant to be used in stop/start urban traffic, where it copes admirably.
There are three driving modes, that pit performance against potential range and the van offers the sort of instant acceleration that full torque at zero revs produces. The driver can also control the amount of braking regeneration that occurs, using paddles behind the steering wheel. There are four levels of retardation from barely using the brake pedal at all in D-, to coasting in D++. They are easy to flick through and, if used as intended, should maximise available range.
As with all discussions about electric vehicles, you eventually come back to the range. Yes, research shows that the majority of van users will do no more than 60 miles a day, which makes the eVito the ideal tool for their urban operation. Yet, even if longer journeys are a rare event, they just wouldn’t be easily achieved in this van, which inevitably limits its versatility.
The early adopters are of course more concerned about the benefits of the electric Mercedes. No Congestion Charge in London, no concerns about the ULEZ or the various Clean Air Zones that are springing up around the country. With a list price starting just below £40,000, the eVito is not as expensive as many people would assume either.
Factor in negligible repair and maintenance costs, low pence per mile running and increasingly positive residual values for EVs and the total cost of ownership soon starts to swing in the mid-weight Merc’s favour.
However, as mentioned, the eVito will not have the market to itself for long. Those mid-weight EVs will be with us by the end of the year, offering an equally attractive zero-emission solution, with a longer range.
Mercedes-Benz eVito Pure L2
BASIC PRICE £39,895 ENGINE Electric motor POWER 85kW TORQUE 300Nm
GVW 3,200 KERB WEIGHT 2,277 PAYLOAD 923
LOAD SPACE LENGTH 2,831 LOAD SPACE WIDTH 1,685 LOAD SPACE HEIGHT 1,391 WIDTH BETWEEN W/ARCHES 1,270 LOAD HEIGHT (UNLADEN) 558 LOAD VOLUME 6.0
Battery capacity 35kWh Range 93 miles (WLTP) Carbon dioxide emissions 0 Service 1 year Vehicle warranty 3 years/unlimited miles Battery warranty 8 years/62,000 miles