Progressive L2 H2
Sprinter is a fine heavy van. How does it shape up in electric form though? John Kendall checks it out.
SECTOR Large van PRICE £45,950 - £46,475 RANGE 82.6 – 92.7 miles (WLTP combined) LOAD VOLUME 11m3 DRIVE 114hp (85kW) Battery electric CHARGING 8 hrs (32A AC 7.4kW) 30 mins (10-80% 80kW DC)
If you need a 3,500kg gross vehicle weight (GVW) van, it is unlikely that you would go wrong by choosing a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Just about every supermarket delivery van is based on a Sprinter and while the Ford Transit outsells it by a considerable margin, the two vehicles are pretty evenly matched in terms of capability.
The question for this test is how does the Sprinter stand up as an electric van? In the first place, Ford is out of contention until next year when the E-Transit makes its debut. Scanning the list of vans eligible for the Plug-in Van Grant (PiVG), rivals include the MAN eTGE, Maxus eDeliver9 and Renault Master ZE. There is also the Fiat E-Ducato. The Maxus and Fiat are the range champions offering a claimed 185 miles and 78/148 miles respectively (WLTP combined), while the others are all somewhat less impressive with both the MAN and Renault offering 71.5 miles and 75 miles respectively.
The Sprinter offers something better at 96 miles (WLTP combined). That will be enough for local running under most conditions, but cold winter weather could knock that back by around 20 per cent. In general it is fair to say that the speed of increasing demand for electric vehicles has caught van producers on the hop. Many have been on the market for some time and electric variants were not thought necessary when they were designed. This explains why so many offer poor range, as an electric drivetrain has had to be added as an afterthought with battery installation a compromise. As models like the eDeliver 9 and e-Transit show, that will change when purpose-designed electric models become more commonplace.
Mercedes-Benz offers one trim level and one size for the eSprinter, the eSprinter Progressive L2 H2. Although the load volume is a respectable 11.0m3, the payload is decidedly modest at 775kg.
Equipment includes a dual passenger seat, heated driver’s seat, height and rake adjustable steering wheel, air conditioning, 270 degree opening rear doors, a 75mph speed limiter, Active Brake Assist, Attention Assist and Crosswind Assist, keyless start and DAB radio. Also included is Mercedes-Benz PRO Connect fleet management package, offered free for two years. Like most rivals, eSprinter is not cheap at £53,950 (when factoring in the PiVG), so fleets will need to do their sums first.
As we would expect from a Sprinter, it is an impressive van to drive, with a comfortable driving position and pleasant interior. Just the same, it feels a bit sparse. The price does not include items such as an adjustable speed limiter or cruise control, which might help to extend range, while satellite navigation is not standard.
Helping to offset the limited range, the Sprinter can be rapid charged, providing an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes from an 80kW DC public rapid charger. Re-charging from a 7.2kW domestic wallbox will take around eight hours. eSprinter offers four regeneration modes to recover energy when slowing down or braking. These can be selected using the “gearshift” paddles and vary between a coasting mode with no regenerative braking and maximum regenerative braking which will activate the brake lights because of the rate of deceleration. It means a lot of paddle shift action to get the best out of the system.
There’s no doubt that eSprinter will make sense to fleets with the right duty cycle, but the price, limited range and reduced payload are likely to make it a specialist fleet choice. The next generation eSprinter will probably address many of these issues.