The upcoming refresh of the Mercedes eSprinter electric van has been tested with impressive results on both range and efficiency.
The test was conducted by TÜV Süd, an independent testing agency, on a real-world route through the mountains in Southern Germany – from Stuttgart to Munich and back again. The drive happened in mid-October, before winter cold or inclement weather set in – rain and snow can both lower efficiency for all vehicles by increasing rolling resistance.
On the trip, the eSprinter traveled 475km (295 miles) with an additional 20km (12 miles) left in the battery at the end of the trip. This worked out to an efficiency of 21.9kWh per 100km, equivalent to 2.8 miles/kWh, or about 350Wh/mi.
This is extremely high efficiency for a high-roof van, keeping in mind that the most efficient EV passenger cars are rated at around 4 miles/kWh by the EPA and other electric trucks (like Rivian and the F-150) are rated at around 2 miles/kWh.
Doing the math suggests a capacity of 108kWh – less than the rumored 120kWh. So we suspect a “usable” capacity in the range of 110kWh, though it’s possible that the nominal capacity will be 115-120kWh and Mercedes will restrict some of it from use to protect longevity.
Regardless, if this test is to be believed, the new eSprinter will offer more than double the range of the previous eSprinter and much higher efficiency, to boot.
Mercedes already sells the eSprinter in Europe, but the 2024 model is getting a big refresh. The current version has two smaller battery options – 41kWh and 55kWh, good for 115km and 150km (71 and 93 miles) of range, respectively.
This makes the van useful for local last-mile or across-town delivery applications, which many of these vehicles are used for, but restricts it from longer or more difficult routes.
The 2024 model will get larger battery options covering a wider spread, rumored at 60/80/120kWh. The larger gap between the smallest and largest batteries will mean that purchasers can get a van more suited to their specific needs so that customers who only need to do local deliveries don’t need to waste money and weight on extra batteries. One of those needs could be overlanding – or “vanlife” – which is increasingly popular and would be much easier to do with the 2024 model’s larger battery options.
But we won’t find out exactly what specs and options will be until February when the van is officially unveiled by Mercedes. Production is scheduled to start in the second half of 2023, suggesting an availability of late 2023 or early 2024. In the US, these vans will be assembled in Charleston, South Carolina, crucially enabling it to qualify for the new EV tax credit from the Inflation Reduction Act.
In fact, the increase in efficiency is so high that it’s hard to believe. The current eSprinter is rated at 1.6mi/kWh, and this test showed the 2024 model with an almost 50% increase in efficiency.
Frankly, we don’t know how this is possible, especially with a larger and, thus, presumably heavier battery.
It could be that Mercedes is holding back less battery capacity, giving more usable capacity to drivers, and that they also improved powertrain efficiency somehow. But with a roughly similar body, the van should have similar aerodynamic qualities, which is the main cause of energy loss while driving.
We don’t have any information on the driving style used, except that this was the normal route from Stuttgart to Munich in mixed conditions, including highways and mountain roads (with approximately 600m/2,000ft of ascent/descent).
So while this test was conducted by an independent agency, presumably using something similar to the WLTP protocol, it could be that they were actively attempting to drive efficiently and stretch the range of the vehicle. Presumably, the van was also unloaded, which would help with efficiency as well.
If we combine all of these dynamics – reducing battery holdback, improvements in powertrain efficiency, lack of payload, and most of all an efficient driving style – then it starts to become more believable, but that’s still a wild increase, nearly 50% from generation to generation.
So the old phrase applies: “Your mileage may vary.” This makes for another good lesson on EV efficiency – range is not set in stone; it depends heavily on many factors, not the least of which is driving style. If you find your EV’s range disappointing, one of the best places to look is your foot. Lay off it a little bit and you’ll go farther.
And while these test results are quite impressive and show that EV efficiency can, in fact, be higher in the real world than ratings suggest (depending on driving conditions), we’ll caution to wait until the van comes out before people get too excited about this. And Mercedes, in particular, might want to be careful about setting expectations high and potentially disappointing buyers, as other companies have received pushback when they’ve done the same.