Mercedes Reportedly Shipping the ESprinter Stateside in 2023

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
mercedes reportedly shipping the esprinter stateside in 2023

Mercedes-Benz is reportedly planning to bring an electric commercial van, presumably the eSprinter, to the United States as early as the third quarter of 2023. While the all-electric van launched earlier this year in Europe, the manufacturer said it wanted to hold off on North American exports for reasons that should be obvious to anybody familiar with the industry. The model’s rather low range (up to 96 miles, depending on load and route) makes it a poor fit for North America’s wide-open spaces, as does its standard 75 mph (or optional 50 mph) top speed. Meanwhile, the necessary homologation efforts required to sell the eSprinter in the U.S. would only increase the price of a vehicle already ill-suited to the nation’s roadways.

Were it to come here now, we’d be looking at a cargo van with an MSRP dangerously close to $60,000 and the top speed and range of a small-displacement dirtbike. Regulatory incentives aside, it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile addition to the North American landscape. But analysts are worried that Mercedes-Benz needs to get a move on and ensure the vehicle comes to the U.S. market before it’s edged out by the competition. It’s a position we’d be inclined to agree with had the eSprinter arrived with more robust specifications.

Guidehouse Insights has forecast U.S. battery-powered light commercial vehicle sales hitting 623,000 units in 2030, against the 56,000 units that were estimated for 2020. “Given the rapidly increasing interest from commercial fleets in going electric, it would be foolish for Daimler not to offer the eSprinter here,” Guidehouse analyst Sam Abuelsamid told Automotive News in a recent interview. “What it comes down to is making sure the vehicle has a competitive range and performance capability.”

But that’s easier said than done. Literally, every single automotive engineer (sometimes entire teams) honest enough to level with us has stated that increasing the range of cargo-focused vehicles is a serious engineering issue. While range can be improved by chucking on a bigger battery pack, the immense amount of weight this adds starts to create a law of diminishing returns. Throwing cargo into the mix further complicates the issue and increases upfront cost — as the battery pack ends up being the most expensive component on any electric vehicle.

Daimler’s U.S.-Spec eSprinter could be powered by a 120-kilowatt-hour battery, according to insider sources. But this is assumed to be the outer limits of what the platform could accommodate. Regardless, an American van would absolutely need something larger than the 55-kWh energy pack that’s currently residing inside the European version. Ford’s E-Transit already outclasses the Mercedes-Benz van with a lower price tag and 126 miles of range and it hasn’t even gone on sale yet. But we weren’t exactly thrilled with its similarly mediocre specifications and still relatively high starting price.

Manufacturers tend to downplay the negatives of electrification, however, while prioritizing the benefits in their marketing. Numerous nameplates have attempted to convince fleet operators that the range and charging limitations (in addition to those elevated MSRPs) of EVs are more than offset by their lighter maintenance schedule and nonexistent fueling costs. Despite the recipe seeming to have limited applications for long-haul deliveries, it does appear to have some utility in urban environments with tighter delivery routes. This may explain why Amazon invested in Rivian and placed an order for 100,000 midsize electric van to be delivered by 2030. Of course, Amazon now has a grotesque amount of money and can afford to waste it. But there are plenty of other agencies ordering smaller batches of EVs to see how they’ll slot into their respective fleets.

From AN:

Electric vehicles are “poised to revolutionize the commercial fleet world,” said Scott Phillippi, UPS senior director of fleet maintenance and engineering.

“We’re partnered with smaller disrupters already, and we would like nothing better than seeing more players putting the innovation pedal to the metal in this space.”

Automakers are responding to the demand. Ford will offer a battery-electric version of the Transit cargo van in the U.S. and Canada for the 2022 model year. And GM will begin production of an electric van, code-named BV1, in September, according to AutoForecast Solutions.

Ford and GM are Mercedes’ largest competitors in the commercial segment, said David Ellis, general manager at RBM of Alpharetta, a major Sprinter retailer near Atlanta.

“So we have to stay competitive and release an electric vehicle that will have longer range and larger carrying capacity,” Ellis said. “The future of the auto industry is electric.”

But when exactly is that going to be? While battery capacities have improved immensely over the last decade, it’s difficult to imagine continued exponential growth over the next couple of years. Although, it rarely seems like it’s the technology or market demand that’s driving the all-electric ship anymore. Much of this is being spurred on by government initiatives and stringent regulatory measures that basically force automakers into building EVs or paying out hefty fines. The same goes for big corporations operating sizable automotive fleets.

“It would be attractive to the U.S. market because fleet customers have CO2 and sustainability targets to achieve, and many other customers could benefit from lower operational costs,” said Swickard, CEO of Swickard Automotive Group, which operates four Mercedes stores in Alaska, Georgia, Oregon, and Washington.

Daimler is intent on launching 10 purely electric vehicles and 25 plug-in hybrids globally by 2025. Last week, the company also said it would invest at least $85 billion to encourage the electrification and digitization of its products within that time frame.

[Images: Daimler]

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3 of 7 comments
  • JGlanton JGlanton on Dec 07, 2020

    I'm holding out for the Airstream eSprinter conversion for $275k with 40 mile range (or $305k with 55 mile range).

    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Dec 07, 2020

      I would never buy that cheap. I would not consider anything less than half a million euro as my next electric van.

  • ThomasSchiffer ThomasSchiffer on Dec 07, 2020

    Put a proper Diesel motor under the bonnet and the range and charging issue are fixed. It’s that simple. In fairness, the eSprinter here is marketed purely for usage within the city environment where the terrible range will not really matter (unless it is winter time). Blame the EU and their hysterical fear of CO2 for this EV insanity. While I am not against EVs, I seriously doubt that they are the future and the solution to our ever increasing mobility needs. And they lack the flexibility which is required in the heavy duty sector, to which I would count the Sprinter class as belonging to.

  • Redapple2 I d just buy one already sorted. Too many high level skills (wiring, paint, body panel fitment et. al.) that i dont have. And I dont fancy working 100 s of hours for $3 /hour.
  • 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)
  • Slavuta Must be all planned. Increase price of cars, urbanize, 15 minutes cities. Be poor, eat bugs