Mercedes-Benz and courier service Hermes will partner to electrify the logistic provider’s fleet by adding 1,500 battery-electric vans for last-mile delivery.

Hermes will incorporate the emission-free Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Vito vans with electric drive into its daily operations in early 2018 as part of a pilot program in Hamburg and Stuttgart, Germany.

The partnership will aim to improve efficiency, productivity and sustainability in parcel deliveries, a concept partially triggered by the growth of e-commerce.

The plan is to deploy the entire fleet of electric delivery vans in urban areas across Germany by the end of 2020.

“This is a specific implementation of our plans for tailored industry solutions in cooperation with our customers,” said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz Vans division.

Daimler and Hermes have been collaborating on conventional and alternative fuel vehicles since 1972.

“Hermes requires mid-size and large vans with electric drive for its applications,” Mornhinweg said. “We can meet both needs with high-quality, reliable and safe vehicles that set high standards also in terms of driver ergonomics.”

Frank Rausch, chief executive for Hermes Germany GmbH said electric mobility will play a key role in the company’s “long-term strategy for climate and environmental protection.”

Gradual electrification of Hermes’ fleet in urban areas is a key aspect for the future, Rausch said.

This includes using emission-free vehicles for all of its inner-city deliveries in Germany by 2025. Only electricity from 100 percent regenerative energy sources will be used to charge the electric vehicles’ batteries.

Mercedes-Benz executives told Trucks.com last year that they were expecting to launch full production of electric vans by the end of the decade. An electric Sprinter, they said, could work well 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.

Elsewhere, Ford Motor Co. will begin testing a fleet of 20 plug-in hybrid vans in partnership with commercial fleets serving London as part of the British capital’s efforts to lower vehicle emissions in its crowded center. The project will team Ford with Transport for London, the city transit agency, and a variety of private fleets, which will use prototypes of Ford’s recently announced plug-in hybrid Transit Custom vans.

Related: Mercedes-Benz Aims to Go Mainstream With Sprinter Van – But Challenges Await

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