Serving notice that it plans to reinvent the commercial van using the latest and most efficient forms of connected tech, Mercedes-Benz revealed its new Vision Van Concept. The unveiling came at the end of a day-long symposium held in Stuttgart that highlighted 10 cutting-edge features being developed as part of M-B’s new $562 million adVANce Strategic Initiative, a quest that has the well-established firm seeking working relationships with disruptive digital innovators and startups to help it reach that goal.

Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans noted this futuristic one-off shares visual cues with the Vision Tokyo Concept presented last fall and reflects the a commitment to becoming “a supplier of holistic system solutions.” The concept foreshadows ideas that may be incorporated in upcoming generations of the Metris, Vito and Sprinter vans. “With the Vision Van we are presenting the intelligent, clean and fully interconnected van of the future", he noted. Mornhinweg sees this total-package approach generating gains in delivery efficiency of up to 50 percent when in production form. He said this major transformation in M-B Vans will be evident by 2020.

EV power

Powering the Vision Van Concept is a 101-horse electric motor energized by a battery pack that provides up to 168 mile of green and near-silent range, making it ideal for urban operations day or night. The van replaces most conventional controls with a drive-by-wire joystick and relies on cloud-based smart software to link and update all members of the delivery chain about the most efficient ways to gather, load and distribute any number of payloads.

To help make that happen, Mercedes Is exploring ways to implement numerous productivity boosters from optimized inventory controls and fully automated loading/unloading racks to dedicated delivery drones and robots that can use a suitably equipped Mercedes Van as a mothership. The goal is to totally redefine the critical “last-mile” of the delivery chain and move the entire process as close as possible to real time as larger numbers of consumers use online sources for purchases.

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Finally, Mercedes also sees a great opportunity to create and market intelligent transportation systems that will allow it to custom tailor vehicles to meet the needs of individual fleets. That includes allowing smaller-scale operations to lease or rent vans for short, even hourly time periods as needed. The company also cites the potential of its fledgling Car2Go program. Already operational in Europe, we can expect to see it launch here in the States next month as Mercedes-Benz Vans remakes itself as a full-service mobility provider in this sub-segment, as well.

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