We first drove the latest Mercedes-Benz Sprinter back in 2018 & came away mightily impressed. The brand stated at that time, that an electric version would follow & in late 2020, Mercedes-Benz duly delivered, launching the eSprinter.
The eSprinter shares its running gear with the smaller eVito electric van, which we drove in 2020 & like it’s smaller electric brethren, it’s quite a bit more expensive than the diesel variant, with prices starting at £51,950 for the eSprinter Progressive L2 H2 FWD, a price that excludes vat & the OLEV grant, currently £8000. Customers should note, that where the diesel range feature three specs; Pure, Progressive & Premium, eSprinter is only offered in Progressive trim & with one size of battery, at just over 55kWh in capacity, which equates to a range of up to 96 miles.
What’s it like compared to a diesel Sprinter ?
From the outside, there’s not a lot to distinguish the eSprinter from any other Sprinter. There’s a lower case blue ‘e’ in front of Sprinter on the rear left door & hidden underneath the Benz badge located in the centre of the front grille, is the EV charging port. Even inside, it’s almost identical to an auto diesel Sprinter, featuring the same steering wheel stalk gear lever, an identical dashboard & offers the same cabin storage. There’s also a top quality finish to the dash & the neat & tidy matt black interior.
The main difference is that underneath the Start button, is a Drive Mode selector, which allows you to select from three electric driving modes, C, E & E+. C stands for Comfort & is the default mode, delivering the full power & torque of the van. E is for Economy & limits the power & torque, whilst E+ lowers the power further & also deactivates the climate control.
Furthermore like many current EV’s, eSprinter also comes with brake regeneration. You can adjust the level of this via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Default is D- offering the most regen & you can also opt for D or D+, which both reduce the braking force. There’s also the option to choose D++, which turns the regen braking off. All of these settings can be viewed in the instrument cluster located in front of the driver.
How well equipped is it ?
In Progressive spec, you get a heated seat for the driver with armrest, dual passenger seat, comfort overhead control panel, a full-width partition, height & rake adjustable steering wheel, TEMPMATIC air-con, a wooden floor, a mode 3 type 2 eight-meter charging cable, linear speed limiter 120km/h, headlight assistant, heat-insulating glass, & 270-degree double-wing rear-end doors. In addition to DAB radio, the Mercedes-Benz audio system comes with a Bluetooth interface with hands-free function and a USB port.
And safety ?
Safety features include, Active Brake ASSIST, Attention ASSIST, Crosswind ASSIST & Emergency eCall & offers double locks & Thatcham Category 1 approved alarm as standard, along with remote locking, theft warning alerts & geo-fencing, thanks to Mercedes PRO connect.
How long does it take to charge an eSprinter ?
Standard charging speed is 20kW, which takes two hours to charge from 10 to 80%. This can be upgraded to 80kW rapid-charging which lowers that time to 30 minutes. Both options come as standard with an eight-metre Type 2 cable. We would definitely recommend either of these charging methods as fully charging the eSprinter at home, as we discovered on a 7.4kW Rolec home charger, takes upwards of 8 hours.
It’s worth knowing that Mercedes PRO connect is free for the first two years when you buy an eSprinter. It features a remote eCharging function, which enables drivers to programme cooling or heating while their van is still charging. Use this regularly & you will conserve battery energy whilst maximising driving range.
Do the batteries reduce payload or load space ?
Four parallel high-voltage battery blocks are installed securely in the eSprinter’s underbody as standard, so that these can be replaced individually in the event of damage. The clever location of these, means that the load space on eSprinter remains un-compromised. However, due to the extra battery weight, the payload is reduced to 774kg. Whilst this may seem a major negative, we would argue that due to it’s short range of 96 miles, the eSprinter is really built for last-mile deliveries. With a load area of 11.0 cubic metres, three metres of loading length & over two metres of height, in effect it’s perfect for parcels. To back us up, Amazon has ordered 800 for its UK fleet.
After all of the technical info, what’s the eSprinter like to drive & most importantly, how good is it’s claimed range ?
Offering single speed, FWD transmission, powered only by a 114hp electric motor, the eSprinter gets up to 30 mph quickly & then the acceleration peters out. We took it out on the motorway & just like the diesel model, the eSprinter is a every quiet place to be, limiting outside wind & road noise.
At a constant 62mph, the eSprinter makes good progress. We had selected E driving mode on departure, as in January with the outside temperature below zero, E+ was a no go. We also utilised the D brake regeneration, which enabled us to recharge when we slowed down. After a journey of 43 miles, the battery range reduced from 96 miles to 53 miles. Managing 1 mile driven, to 1 mile of range is impressive, as in a smaller electric van driven the previous week, we had only averaged 0.5 miles driven to every 1 mile of range.
A couple of local trips, taken over shorter distances, resulted in the same findings. Drive a mile, use a mile of range. Handling in town is decent too, with the light Sprinter steering a real bonus.
For van fleet operators, our range results are a positive, enabling companies to plan their routes & driving distances accordingly & to factor in regular re-charging as well.
It can’t all be good news can it ?
Whilst the cabin is very comfortable, the seating wide enough for three & the cabin easy to get in & out of, the single spec option of Progressive on eSprinter, means that drivers will miss out on MB’s excellent 10.25″ colour touchscreen media system, fitted on Premium models. This means access to a mono display, non-touch screen, fitted with a DAB radio & single ‘C’ USB input.
Also, the steering wheel on eSprinter doesn’t feature any short cut buttons, so you can’t adjust the radio or Blueetooth hands-free phone volume or change the function, without having to reach across the cab to push the buttons on the radio system manually.
And, we praised the Benz’s brake regeneration earlier, but utilising this on the motorway & trying to keep a constant speed, as we also found on the eVito, can become a chore. Brake re-generation makes the accelerator pedal feel heavy, so more effort is required to push it. Premium specced Sprinter features cruise control, a far less tiresome way to drive at a constant speed & an option that would make the eSprinter even more range-friendly.
Will it work for me ?
If your business involves carrying lighter payloads, travelling shorter distances in or around an urban area, then yes, the eSprinter is definitely worth your consideration. With a starting price north of 50k, you’ll have to look at the eSprinter as a long-term investment before it begins to save your business money. Charge your eSprinter regularly, especially overnight on cheap electricity, utilise the range daily, take advantage of the OLEV grant & reduced taxation & the eSprinter will start saving you money quicker than you’d imagine.
Servicing cost’s should reduce too, as electric motors have fewer moving parts than a combustion engine, so in theory, there’s less to go wrong, or that will need replacing. Furthermore, the eSprinter comes with a 3-year unlimited mileage warranty & the battery pack is warranted for 8-years, or 100,000 miles, guaranteeing at least 70% capacity after this time.
We’ve not gone into too much detail about the Mercedes-Benz Pro Connect service system, that comes free for 2 years with each eSprinter. It’s a system designed to help business users utilise data, enabling them to simplify the use of vans within their day-to-day use. With an electric van, this type of tech is even more relevant, as it will allow operators to keep on top of a vehicle that offers a far shorter range than a diesel & is far more likely to be delivering door to door. Another great selling point for the eSprinter.
The key though, as with any electric vehicle, is in understanding it’s range & in the case of the eSprinter, customers can feel reassured, that it does offer an accurate mile for mile battery range.
And it helps that the eSprinter features an modern, clutter free interior, with high quality fixtures & fittings, plus a hard wearing finish & plenty of standard safety features.
In essence, we have a large electric panel-van that does anything & everything you’d want a large panel-van to do, but over shorter distances, so factor in huge storage space, decent urban handling & of course, a van that emits zero emissions & you have a very strong case for an eSprinter to be added to your fleet.