Are you sitting down? Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will launch an all-electric Sprinter van, the eSprinter, in North America beginning in 2023. Mercedes is using an entirely new construction, rather than adapting an existing architecture that’s designed around a gas-burning engine, which should allow a more versatile design that maximizes interior capacity and almost for certain increases the rigidity of the eSprinter—always a massive challenge when the vehicle you’re designing is a big, open box. It currently sells electric Sprinters in Europe.
For environmentally oriented vanlifers and campers, this is the dream. Other than the van being free, of course.
Also, Mercedes has committed to making the van in multiple configurations, not just as a commercial product, but as a people mover and a flatbed truck, too. Top battery configuration is 120 Kwh, which could deliver between 200 and 300 miles of range.
Mercedes is spending $425 million on this new platform, no small chunk of change. True, Rivian has raised more than $5 billion, but Mercedes-Benz doesn’t need to create all-new factories or an entire manufacturing infrastructure. And, out of the gate, this announcement was focused on the US market, too. So nearly half a billion bucks devoted to the Sprinter is actually quite a large statement. This dovetails, yes, with Americans’ shift toward buying everything online and the voracious needs of Amazon, UPS, and Fedex to meet that demand (Amazon has ordered 100,000 vans from Rivian), but you don’t have to be a genius to see that a lot of new e-vans would mean a bigger aftermarket for conversion and that smart carmakers want to be involved in that game, too.
While Mercedes is coy on whether the electric model will have AWD or an adventure-spec, a spokesperson did say, “We are constantly reviewing the further development potential of our fully electric portfolio, also with an eye toward the growing motorhome market.”
If history is any guide, it’s notable that Mercedes wasn’t shy about bringing Americans the Metris Weekender camper van, so our guess is that if they see room within an electrified adventure van niche, they’ll happily dive in—also, they might do so not to cede any space to rivals Rivian, Ford, or Tesla. And don’t forget that VW will be entering the market, too, with its long-promised, reborn electric microbus.
This should lead to stronger competition, which hopefully means reasonable prices for vehicles like the eSprinter. Context: An AWD diesel Sprinter today runs about $50,000.
The only bad news? No matter what, we’ll have to wait until 2023 to see an eSprinter in the flesh.