Van User
Mercedes-Benz has launched its second full electric LCV, the eSprinter, says Dan Gilkes. LAST-MILE DELIVERY

Mercedes-Benz has launched its second full electric LCV, the eSprinter, says Dan Gilkes.

Having entered the mid-weight EV sector with the eVito, Mercedes-Benz is back to tackle the heavier end of the market, with the eSprinter. Available initially in a single L2H2 panel van model, the eSprinter is aimed at urban users and last-mile delivery companies, with a maximum range of up to 96 miles.

Powertrain
The van is powered by a 55kWh battery, that drives the front wheels through an 85kW (114hp) electric motor. That motor delivers 295Nm of torque, which is enough for reasonably rapid acceleration, given the size of the van.

However, unlike the big Merc’s namesake, the eSprinter is not about high-speed motorway cruising. Indeed, there are in fact three speed limiter settings on offer to customers, to control the right-foot urges of drivers. The standard van calls time at a theoretical 75mph, but it is also possible to limit the van to 62mph, or even 50mph.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that the promised range of up to 96 miles is only offered with the 50mph limiter. Let the van run at those higher speeds and the predicted range drops to around 83 miles.

There are three driving modes to maximise range. C, or Comfort, offers full power and torque, with access to the heating and air conditioning system’s maximum output. Switch to E, for Economy and the power and torque delivery take a bit of a cut, while the air con output is also reduced. E+ takes that further, cutting the air-con almost totally. However, on a wet and windy January day it was almost impossible to use E+, as the windows soon become misted up without the ventilation working fully.

Drivers can influence the range in other ways though. Paddles behind the steering wheel can be used to alter the amount of brake energy recuperation. D- provides the most regenerative braking, enough in fact for the van to activate its brake lights as you lift off the throttle pedal. Click the right-hand paddle once into D and you get less regen, providing similar levels of braking to a diesel Sprinter under engine overrun.

Another click takes the level to D+, reducing the brake energy even more, while the last setting, D++ will allow the van to coast with no deceleration at all. This boosts range when cruising at higher speeds.

Charging
Though only offered with a single battery size, the eSprinter can be had with a choice of charging options. Both get standard AC inputs, with a 7.2kW wallbox taking up to 8 hours to reach 100% charge from empty. 

The lower priced van also boasts a 20kW DC rapid charger, that will take around two hours to go from 10-80% charge. Alternatively, for an additional £525, you can have an 80kW DC rapid charger. This will allow the battery to go from 10-80% in just 30 mins on a suitable charging station.

During our time with the van, we plugged in to Gridserve’s new all-electric facility in Braintree (left), taking on just over 32kW of power in 27 minutes, potentially a lunch-break recharge.

For those who have tried Merc’s eVito, which uses the former diesel filler flap to conceal the electric charging point on the side of the van, that is not the case with the eSprinter. The larger model has its charging input point behind the three-pointed star on the front grille.

Load carrying capacity
As mentioned, the eSprinter is currently only available in L2H2 format, providing a load volume of 11m3. The batteries are stored within the chassis, so there is no loss of load capacity in the back or cabin space in the front.

However, with a maximum gross weight set at 3.5-tonnes, the van has a potential payload of just 774kg plus the driver, so this is very much a local light parcel delivery van, rather than a heavyweight hauler. Given that the e-Sprinter is currently built on a front-wheel drive chassis, it is unlikely to be offered at a higher gross weight in the future. That said, a rear-driven model, with increased range and load capacity, is expected in 2023.

In the cab
The eSprinter is offered in a single Progressive trim, which includes a comfortable heated driver’s seat, semi-automatic Tempmatic air conditioning, keyless start, a Thatcham-approved alarm, plus a DAB radio with Bluetooth and USB connectivity. 

It should be noted, however, that like fellow German manufacturer Volkswagen, Mercedes has opted for the new USB-C slots, rather than the more popular USB-A, which means you’ll need an adaptor for an iPhone.

You get Active Brake Assist, Adaptive ESP, Attention Assist and Crosswind Assist as part of the standard trim. Auto headlights are also included, though not auto wipers. Also missing from the standard trim list, are heated door mirrors, which should really be standard on all larger vans.

As mentioned, there is no need to insert a key in the eSprinter, just push the start button to bring the dash to life. The forward, reverse and park settings are selected with a steering column-mounted lever and the van has an electric parking brake, with a small button to the right and below the steering wheel.

Everything is typically well screwed together and though fairly dark, the cab interior is a comfortable place to spend the day. There are plenty of blank switches on show, a testament to Mercedes’ extensive options list. Reach and rake adjustment for the steering should see all shapes and sizes of driver find a comfortable position though.

Not strictly in the cab, but the eSprinter also comes with Mercedes PRO connect, free for the first two years. This provides real-time battery management, route mapping and allows drivers to pre-set cooling and cab heating while the van is still connected to a charging point. Through the Always Connected Package, also standard with eSprinter, customers can also make use of a host of connected services, for efficient fleet management, driving style analysis and fleet communications.

On the road
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the eSprinter is very similar to the diesel model on which it is based. It is quiet and admirably smooth, if not the fastest electric van on the road. It does make good progress on rural inter-urban routes, though its intended home is without doubt inner-city streets.

The driving modes don’t seem to make that much difference in an unladen van, though E+ should probably be reserved for those last few miles before reaching a charging point. The various regeneration settings are far more effective and the paddles make it easy to swap between settings, as you move from cruising to stop/start traffic. The highest regeneration setting also provides enough braking effort in urban driving to almost drive without using the brake pedal at all.

Conclusion
Mercedes-Benz research shows that average daily mileage for a van across Europe is less than 60 miles, making the eSprinter’s 83-95 mile range more than acceptable. For the last-mile users for whom this van is designed, that should indeed prove more than enough in normal use, as can be seen by early orders from parcel delivery businesses.

However, there are still plenty of companies that would like to go electric but need the reassurance of a longer range, even if only for occasional use. This is particularly true of second and potentially third users.

There are also many operators, including local authorities and utilities, for whom a chassis cab would be far more useful than a panel van layout.

That said, this is the first eSprinter model. There will be additional variants in time, with larger batteries, rear-wheel drive and a higher gross weight. It will be interesting to see how Mercedes takes the concept forwards.

Mercedes-Benz eSprinter Progressive

Basic price £52,475 (before PiVG)
Drive motor Electric, FWD   Power 85kW   Torque 295Nm

Weights (kg)
GVW 3,500   Kerb weight 2,726   Payload 774

Dimensions (mm)
Load space length 3,397   Load space width 1,787   Load space height 2,079   Width between w/arches 1,412   Load volume (m3)  11 

Cost considerations
Battery capacity 55kWh   EV range 96 miles (WLTP)  CO2 emissions 0g/km   Service interval  1 year/24,000 miles    Warranty Three years/unlimited miles   Battery warranty Eight years/100,000 miles