The latest in a line of battery-powered vans comes courtesy of Germany. John Kendall gets to grips with Mercedes-Benz’ most recent commercial electric offering
The latest in a line of battery powered vans comes courtesy of Germany. John Kendall gets to grips with Mercedes-Benz’ latest commercial electric offering
Van model cycles typically lasting 10 years have not necessarily helped manufacturers as the transition to electric power continues. When the shift began to gather pace around three years ago, it left a number of van manufacturers with models that had never been designed with electric power in mind, still with a few years to go before replacement was due. As a result, several manufacturers were faced with a hasty programme of modifying vans to accept battery packs where battery packs had never been intended to go. The result? Vans with less than appealing operating ranges.
The Mercedes-Benz Vito fitted this description well. Originally, it came with a WLTP combined range of up to 92 miles from its 41kWh battery, which was fine for operators on local delivery work, but not quite so impressive if you had unpredictable and longer daily mileages to cover. There was no option for rapid charging either.
It’s a measure of how quickly battery technology has been progressing that in spring 2022, Mercedes was able to revise the eVito with a more useful 66kWh battery offering a WLTP range of up to 162 miles. It also gained rapid charging capability, adding further to the flexibility of the model. It’s this latest version that we are testing here.
First impressions are good. The fit and finish, both internally and externally are what you would expect from a Mercedes-Benz, with the interior trim reflecting what you would find in one of the company’s cars. Our test model was the shorter L2 model in the higher-grade Premium spec. This adds body-coloured bumpers, 17-inch alloy wheels, metallic paint, electric folding door mirrors, a chrome grille, adaptive brake lights, lumbar support for the driver’s seat, PARKTRONIC parking sensors, front and rear and front fog lights to the Progressive spec, which is fairly comprehensive.
Cost options fitted include Mercedes Audio 40 Navigation (£400), illuminated vanity mirrors in the sun visors (£100), passenger seat heating (£210), Lane Keeping Assist (£455), LED Intelligent light system (£1,770), Active Distance Assist (£830) and Driver Assistance package (£1,565). A spare wheel and jack, plus wood flooring are no cost options.
Around the back, our test van came with twin sliding, side-loading doors, and symmetrical rear doors that will open to 180°. Four tie-down eyes each side should give plenty of options for load securing. Panels line the body sides and rear doors to waist height to guard against dents from shifting loads.
ON THE ROAD
Our test mileage with the van included a return trip to Gatwick airport – approximately 250 miles – followed the next day by a return trip to the Millbrook test facility in Bedfordshire (some 284 miles), so there was plenty of opportunity to assess range and driving characteristics. When the van first arrived, the maximum range I could add was around 145 miles, but then, as the weather warmed up at the end of May, 162 miles started to show on a full charge, which can make a noticeable difference. I managed the return trip to Gatwick with a single charging stop, but the combination of a late return home followed by a planned early start complicated the Millbrook trip. Firstly, the van showed that it would be fully charged by 7.15am the next morning when ideally, I would have left at 5.00am, so my departure was already delayed. The van was not fully charged by 7.15am, so I delayed my departure further while waiting for a bit more charge. This also meant I needed a precautionary charge stop on the outward journey, delaying my arrival further, and again on the return leg. Even more range might have made things easier, but the overnight charge would have taken longer still.
That apart, the eVito is a pleasant vehicle to drive, with the low noise levels of an EV making for comfortable travel. To preserve range, I limited motorway speeds to 65mph, while the van’s legal speed limits – 50mph on single carriageway roads and 60mph on dual carriageways helped to maximise range. Visibility is good, the seats comfortable and there’s plenty of storage space. Drivers will like the eVito driving experience.
The extended range is a significant improvement for the eVito, adding up to 43% to the range. There is more to come when the new model arrives, but the additional range makes the van more competitive with its rivals. The competition continues to improve too, though. Fleets will need to analyse their routes and usage patterns before taking on the eVito, but there is plenty to like about it.