The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has been a fond favourite of businesses looking to portray a more upmarket image when it comes to deliveries. You don’t see Waitrose using Transits, do you? However, the van’s merits go well beyond its shiny badge and companies such as DPD have fully embraced the Sprinter as its default choice of door-to-door hauler. In fact, during the lockdown periods of 2020, this van actually became one of the best selling vehicles in the UK. Mercedes has similarly high hopes for this new eSprinter.
Electrification is ramping up, and vehicles of all sizes must embrace a cleaner future. Despite what you might think, EV commercial vehicles are actually an easier sell than cars to the public. The benefits of lower running costs for a fleet and the clean image that comes with electric motoring makes for a tempting proposition. Battery tech is not at the point where an electric van can replace a motorway lugger, but for the thousands of doorstep hopping deliveries being made today, they’re a good fit.
Commercial vehicles are more about function than form, but Mercedes customers do expect at least a subtle level of premium design. At a glance customers should know that a business represents quality, maybe the reason why the eSprinter proudly wears an enlarged three-pointed-star. The chromed emblem sits on a bold blunt grille that dominates the front and is flanked by a pair of raked headlights.
The eSprinter comes in just one trim level called Progressive, a mid-level grade, and features a set of 16-inch steel wheels. This Sprinter can also only be had in one size for now, L2H2, a 6 metre van with a high-top roof. There are a few character lines that run its length, and also some plastic cladding to breakup the vast silver shape. Its rear is framed by a set of neat vertical lights and another obligatory Mercedes-Benz logo dead-centre.
In truth, there’s nothing that highlights this van as being an EV other than a few badges dotted around the place – no bad thing. If electric motoring is to become the ‘new normal’, then why do manufacturers have to shout about it? In many respects this Sprinter is business as usual, just with a different powertrain.
The interior of a modern van is one of the most important things about it. Considering that someone will be spending hours on end in this space, it needs to be comfortable, ergonomic and feature enough tech to keep the modern driver happy. Merc knows this and offers up three well postured seats with plenty of support – the driver even gets an armrest and a heated seat. There’s lots of adjustment in the post and this van’s steering wheel, meaning that all shapes and sizes should be able to get comfy in their lofty chair.
As mentioned the cabin seats three, although the middle occupant sacrifices some legroom for a pair of large storage bins. These cubbies are great for throwing work gadgetry in, but it does compromise that central seat. Storage in general is excellent with cavernous door bins, ample cup holders, dashboard storage and sizeable overhead shelves.
The whole interior feels durable and hardy, but also much more stylised than rivals. It’s a nice place to be thanks to the space on offer and huge windows that help brighten the interior.
It’s the reason we’re all here, isn’t it? Vans need to carry stuff at the end of the day, be them powered by electricity or diesel. The good news is that the eSprinter offers the same 11m³ as its combustion counterparts in L2H2 guise, meaning that the bulkiest of cargo can find a home here. It is a practically identical space to a regular Sprinter thanks to the batteries being in the floor, however, the maximum cargo weight for an eSprinter is 774kg and not the near tonne it usually would haul.
There are plenty of tie-down points, and a standard solid bulkhead improves safety and refinement. Every eSprinter comes with a large side loading door and tall double hinged double doors at the rear. The doors ability to fold back on itself is a godsend when loading something sizeable on a busy street.
As mentioned above, the Mercedes-Benz eSprinter is only offered in one trim level. Progressive delivers on things such as a heated driver’s seat, air conditioning, DAB radio and Bluetooth. The infotainment is pretty basic, but you can have a 7-inch touchscreen if you desire.
A nifty option our test van had at £606 was a reversing camera that’s integrated into the rearview mirror. When inactive it’s a regular piece of mirrored glass, but when in use the glass becomes a screen.
All vans come with an 8m charging cable which is handy for when a charger is in a tricky spot. It’s also worth noting that the eSprinter charges via a socket on its nose that also makes adding volts much easier.
This Mercedes-Benz eSprinter is powered by a 114bhp motor and a 55.2kWh battery, a pairing that nets up to 96 miles of range. While in the grand scheme of electric motoring that is not a lot, it’s actually about right for delivery companies delivering lots of small packages. In stead of a diesel engine inefficiently stopping, starting and idling, this EV is cleaner and leaner.
When it comes to charging, your average 7kW wallbox will fill the eSprinter in around 8 hours, but all vans will accept a 20kW fast charge that will do the same in about 2 hours. However, you can option an 80kW onboard charger that enables rapid charging from such units, getting you from 0-80% in just 30 minutes. As you can see, this all works quite nicely for fleets of vehicles left to charge in the depo. Amazon Germany certainly thinks so, and has placed a substantial order for the eSprinter.
Behind the wheel of the eSprinter, it arguably presents itself as the most refined van on the market. The regal Sprinter sets the bar very high already, but the lack of vibration and noise from a combustion engine gives this EV an air of serenity. From a grand driving position you can enjoy the mild whizz of the electric motor and how supple the suspension is. Soaking up potholes with ease, the ride is cushioning which is good news for both driver and any delicate cargo.
In its L2H2 guise the eSprinter is still a sizeable van, but it does a great job of not feeling intimidating. The steering has a nice weight to it, but it is far from heavy or cumbersome. Visibility is excellent and the addition of wider view mirrors help keep you informed of your changing surroundings. A lack of transmission also means there’s no mechanical shuffling of cogs for a driver to focus on.
The Mercedes-Benz eSprinter features regenerative braking that stores energy otherwise lost through deceleration in the batteries. In some vehicles this can be quite abrupt, or the driver adopts a ‘one pedal’ driving style, but things are a bit more natural in this van. Deceleration is predictable and feels akin to a combustion engine, likewise with the acceleration that has not been calibrated to grab headlines. All of these things translate into a very easy transition for drivers from diesel to electric.
Certainly for your typical Amazon delivery, electric vans are the future – one that’s not all that far away. The eSprinter does have its compromises in terms of payload weight, but in just about every respect that matters this EV executesits role just as well as its successful diesel siblings. That’s what businesses want, a transition to electric that results in as little change as possible, and this van has that box firmly checked.
The elephant in the room is of course the cost of electric commercial vehicles at the moment. Tax included, an eSprinter starts at £64,212 which is a mighty sum of money. Thankfully businesses can claim the VAT back, and the government is currently offering an £8k grant for businesses switching to EV vans. There’s also a running cost saving with electric vehicles, something that will multiply with a fleet of vans.
This van might not be ready to replace the diesel machines running up the countries motorways just yet, but considering the consumer buying habits of today, it’s the right van for a particular job.
Model tested: Mercedes-Benz eSprinter Progressive
Drivetrain: 85kW electric motor + 55.2kWh battery, battery
Power / Torque: 114bhp / 295Nm
Top speed: 75mph
Cargo space: 11m³
Range: 96 miles
Charging: 8 hours via 7.4kW / 2 hours 20kW / 0-80% rapid 30 minutes