Driven: Mercedes-Benz eVito

The Mercedes-Benz Vito is a great medium-sized van, with top-notch refinement and a strong reputation for quality. And if you want a van with zero tailpipe emissions, you’ll soon be able to buy the eVito. Priced in the region of £29,000 (after Government plug-in grant deductions), the all-electric van will cover 96 miles on a single charge and should reach the UK in late 2018.

Mercedes-Benz electric vans will become increasingly familiar over the next 24 months, with the German manufacturer promising to provide electric drive for the majority of its vans by 2020. The only exception will be the X-Class pick-up - apparently it’s too large and power hungry for batteries to cope with.

The eVito takes six hours to charge and - according to the official figures - it will cover up to 93 miles before running out of spark. On the face of it, that might not sound like a huge distance, but Mercedes-Benz isn't pitching its electric van at long distance drivers. Far from it, the eVito is designed for urban delivery drivers. And according to Mercedes-Benz research, most delivery driver do not exceed 90 miles in a single day of driving.

Being electric, the eVito qualifies for the Government’s plug-in grant, which pays for 20 per cent of the purchase price of the van, up to a maximum of £8000. This means the eVito should start at under £30,000 to buy outright. While Mercedes-Benz has promised to make the purchasing process as simple as “buying any diesel van” from its range. This means businesses will be able to buy, hire or lease the van, depending on their finances.

Mercedes -Benz E Vito 2 (2)

Like the Renault Kangoo Z.E and Peugeot Partner Electric, the eVito looks unremarkable compared to the standard diesel-powered version. Bar the fancy livery on our prototype vehicle, the exterior is largely unchanged from the diesel, with the charging socket located behind a metal flap by the passenger's door. It’s reassuringly familiar inside too, with the 41kWh battery pack stored under the load floor so not to impact load space.

In its largest form - extra-long wheelbase - the eVito is extremely capable, with the load area measuring 6.6m3 metres. Payloads peaks at a respectable 1073kg, which is far more than anything the Kangoo Z.E, e-NV200 or Partner Electric will manage. 

We tested the eVito on a test track in Germany. The vehicle itself was a pre-production prototype, but Mercedes-Benz claimed it was "extremely close" to the production ready van. On the road, the eVito felt powerful enough for city and town work, with meaningful acceleration and nimble handling. The maximum gross vehicle weight (GVW) is 3200kg, but the smooth steering and comfortable ride quality makes the van feel much smaller and lighter on the road. 

The 84kW motor delivers 112PS to the front-wheels, with 300Nm available from the moment you press the throttle. On flat, urban roads, the eVito certainly has enough acceleration to join a busy road, without disrupting traffic flow. However, our limited test route, on private roads, did not feature any hills and it remains to be seen how the powertrain copes on an incline with a full load. 

Mercedes -Benz E Vito 4

The electric running gear has - for the most part - been lifted from the Mercedes-Benz plug-in car range and this means the motor is silent and smooth. A regenerative braking system is fitted as standard and once you get into the habit of the vehicle automatically breaking when you lift the throttle, it's easy to add some additional miles of charge to the battery. Over a day of driving, it's claimed that the eVito will regain as much as 15 miles. 

Despite still being in the prototype phase, we found the eVito to be extremely refined and easy to drive. It should reach the UK in late 2018 and Mercedes-Benz will warrant the battery pack for eight-years, which should suffice the life of most working vans. The big bonus with the eVito remains it huge load area and low fuel costs, which will be as low as 2p-per-mile on some energy tariffs.

Obviously, with a sub-100 mile range, the eVito will not suit all van drivers or businesses. There is no fast charge option either, to add 20 or 30 miles in a short amount of time, which could work against it when the 2018 Nissan e-NV200 arrives with its extended range of up to 174 miles. 

That said, few electric vans can match the eVito for carrying capacity. The e-NV200 might cover almost twice as many miles, but it will only carry 694kg compared to the eVito's 1073kg. As a result, we think the Mercedes-Benz will become a viable option for delivery businesses who want a large and capable van for completing last mile deliveries in towns and cities. 

Essential stats:

Prices expected to start from: £35,500 (before Gov plug-in grant, CO2 emissions: zero, payload: 1073kg, towing capacity: TBC, length: 5370mm, width: 1928mm, height: 1910mm, powertrain: 41.4kWh electric motor, torque 300Nm, power output: 112PS

Mercedes -Benz E Vito 3 (1)