With plans to launch its first fully-electric heavy truck — and plenty of battery-electric passenger vehicles in the works — German automaker Daimler is in the early planning stages for an electrified medium-duty van, senior officials tell Trucks.com.
The owner of Mercedes-Benz is considering launching a battery-based Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van around the end of the decade, approximately the same time it plans the next redesign of the large commercial van.
Such timing would coincide with the launch of production at the automaker’s new van plant in Charleston, S.C. Mercedes broke ground on the $500-million plant, which will create 1,300 jobs, last week.
“I see there is growing demand in the market,” said Volker Mornhinweg, director of Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz Vans division. “In the near future, I see this demand will rise.”
The first customers would likely be in Europe. Deutsche Post, the German mail service, is one potential customer that has expressed strong interest in a battery van, said Mornhinweg, as have other “courier services.”
Several U.S. and global delivery services, including UPS and Federal Express, also are exploring the use of electric trucks and vans.
An electric Sprinter would be deployed on shorter routes, such as urban package delivery, where range is less of an issue than for long-haul shipments. Such a circuit also would optimize the vehicle’s ability to recapture energy in stop-and-go traffic through regenerative braking.
Mercedes is focused on a pure battery-electric version of the Sprinter, rather than a plug-in hybrid because the latter would require a more complex and heavy drivetrain that would raise costs and reduce payload capacity, Mornhinweg said.
“Our customers have a really sharp pencil” and would find it difficult to make a business case for hybrid power, he said.
Mercedes is well-positioned to bring out an electric Sprinter, the executive said, as the van division would be able to access technology that is already available – or under development – for the automaker’s passenger vehicles.
The company is planning to launch more than a dozen battery-based vehicles, including both plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric models, by the end of the decade. Last month, Daimler said it was developing a heavy-duty truck for urban delivery routes. The vehicle would have a range of about 125 miles between charges and is part of the company’s technology development program.
“We intend to establish electric driving as systematically as autonomous and connected driving,” said Wolfgang Bernhard, who heads Daimler’s trucks and bus business.
The automaker’s plans for a battery-electric Sprinter are not locked down and plans could still change, Mornhinweg said.
Daimler is developing electric vehicles because there is growing interest from customers and increased pressure from environmental regulators looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, especially in Europe and China. They want to keep gas and diesel-powered vehicles out of urban centers.
Meanwhile, battery prices are falling rapidly, making electric vehicles more economically feasible. At the same time, advanced lithium-ion battery cells have become lighter, more energy-dense and more reliable.
These trends improve the electric vehicle business case for the automaker.