Although not well-known amongst U.S. consumers, a big portion of Mercedes-Benz’s global business is commercial cargo vans. It’s such an important market, Mercedes is redesigning its Sprinter lineup for 2018 with a host of new technology and an electric variant to stay ahead.
The use case for cargo vans is a vast one. Companies sometimes operates fleets of hundreds or thousands of them, or a sole proprietor may buy one to operate his trade business. The bandwidth of uses has been in-mind for Mercedes during this remodel, which is focusing on new types of connectivity.
Using a Linux based communications module, the new Sprinter will offer an open-source software solution to make using these vans more efficient. The system will do everything from monitor vehicle health and cargo to remotely control certain vehicle elements.
The system is also deeply integrated with the rest of the van’s control systems. For example, if a delivery company loads a list of deliveries for the day into the system and the GPS detects a traffic disruption, it Mercedes navigation system will re-route the van to avoid the problem.
On the back-end, this system will interface with a desktop software called Mercedes Pro. Users can utilize the system with only one van or manage a massive fleet of them, similar to systems offered by GM’s OnStar and Ford Fleet.
Additionally, Mercedes is layering technology such as crosswind assist and other active safety features to the lineup.
While the tech is likely to appeal to buyers more than the design, Mercedes has tweaked the design for 2018 as well. The front clip design is sharper with a larger grille design and LED headlights. The utilitarian shape remains the same, but will be offered in more variants this time.
Mercedes has also confirmed it will offer its first-ever electrified Sprinter van. Dubbed the eSprinter, it will store its lithium-ion battery pack under the cargo floor so that the electric powertrain does not impede on cargo space. So far the company has not offered details regarding the battery size, power or (most importantly) range of the EV. Mercedes has only said that it will charge in 30-60 minutes.
The new Sprinter lineup is expected to go on-sale next year.