First fleet of 100 Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell electric vans covers 650,000 km in customer use; more model variants planned
|Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL. Click to enlarge.|
The 100 battery-driven electric Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL vans (earlier post) in use in Berlin and Stuttgart have covered 650,000 km (404,000 miles). The two projects, each with 50 Vito E-CELLs, are intended to run over a period of four years. A total of 230 Vito E-CELL vans are now in use in several model regions.
Mercedes-Benz delivered the first vehicles for field testing to testing partners in Berlin at the beginning of September 2010, and in Stuttgart in January 2011. The areas of application are diverse: courier, express and package service providers (KEP, in German: Kurier-, Express- und Paketdienstleister); plant transportation in large corporations; service vehicles for plant maintenance, customer service, and assembly and internal transport within companies.
The varied topography was a key factor in the selection of the regions. In contrast to the largely flat terrain of the greater Berlin area, the differences in elevation within the Stuttgart metropolitan area are as much as 350 meters (1,148 feet), presenting a stamina test for the range, recuperation performance and drive properties of the Vito E-CELL.
The German Federal Ministry for the Environment and Nature Conservation is lending its support to the Electrification of Mercedes-Benz Small Vans in Development and Production project (EMKEP) in Berlin. In Stuttgart, the Integrated Concept for Sustainable Electric Mobility project (IKONE) is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development. The two promotional initiatives are part of the German federal government’s second economic stimulus package.
Mercedes-Benz and energy suppliers Vattenfall (Berlin) and EnBW (Stuttgart) have begun the implementation of new technologies in vehicles and their charging systems at both locations. The energy suppliers have now provided charging stations to operators at their depots. The batteries of Vito E-CELL vans are recharged at these locations outside of operating hours.
Charging technology. Intelligent charging technology is used, based on the Smart Charge Communication Unit (SCCU) in the Vito E-CELL. The technology optimises the CO2 balance of the vans with certified green electricity, or even surplus wind energy (“Wind-to-Vehicle/W2V”). The charging technology can also be programmed to lower electricity tariffs to impact operating costs favorably. Where operators use several Vito E-CELL vans, the charging procedures are graded through a process of local charge management (LLM, in German: Lokales Lastmanagement) to ensure that the grid capacity is not overextended.
Range. Initial concerns regarding a too limited range were not substantiated in practice, Daimler said. The vehicles proved capable of covering at least 80 km (50 miles) on a full battery charge, including in winter, which in most cases is a sufficient range. Specifically, this concerns KEP applications with fixed routes, trade companies, supply and municipal companies, and general use within the inner-city environment and within corporate facilities. In a survey conducted during testing in Stuttgart, drivers rated the range of the Vito E-CELL as either good or satisfactory. The fact that the challenging topography of the region fails to limit the on-the-road capabilities of the Vito E-CELL was one of the key findings in field testing, Daimler said.
The charge level of the batteries is a key indicator of range. In Berlin, for instance, this typically fluctuated between 95 and 25% of available capacity, indicating that the maximum range of the Vito E-CELL is seldom fully utilized. Comparatively short charging times of between one and three hours are thus the norm in both regions.
Speed. The speed of the Vito E-CELL is electronically limited to 89 km/h (55 mph) to preserve a maximum range. This allows the vans to be driven within the flow of truck traffic on occasional trips on the autobahn. Often, the maximum speed is not reached: in Berlin, for example, only 30% of electric vans were reported to reach top speed on a daily basis. Analyses revealed that, in most cases, the speed of the Vito E-CELL did not exceed 55 km/h (34 mph) in both cities. Speeds were largely in the 15 to 30 km/h (9-19 mph) range.
Technical design of the Vito E-CELL. The Vito E-CELL is based on the mid-length Vito panel van. With a load capacity of up to 900 kg (1,984 lb) and an unmodified usable load compartment, the Vito E-CELL is suitable for commercial applications without any restrictions. The bodywork as such remains unaffected.
The electric engine, power electronics, converter and AC/DC charger are housed beneath the hood. The electric engine develops 60 kW, with a peak torque of 280 N·m (207 lb-ft). The power is transferred to the front wheels. The high-performance and durable lithium-ion traction batteries are located beneath the load compartment floor. The nominal voltage is 360 V, with a capacity of 36 kWh.
The maximum speed is limited to 89 km/h (55 mph) to maximize the range, which according to NEDC is around 130 km (81 miles). This enables the Vito E-CELL to keep pace with the flow of truck traffic on the autobahn. The vehicle accelerates quickly from 0 to 50/80 km/h (31/50 mph) in 6.5/11 seconds.
Power supply is via charging stations at fleet depots. The batteries of the Vito E-CELL are charged at a voltage of 380/400 V, a process that takes a maximum of six hours. Later, charging will also be possible at a voltage of 230 V. Furthermore, the batteries are also charged while the vehicle is under way, through recuperation, in which brake energy is converted into power.
Back-up for the Vito E-CELL during the two field tests was provided by the local subsidiaries. The Vito E-CELL is also fully integrated into the Mercedes-Ben Star Diagnosis diagnostics system.
The Vito E-CELL is equipped with full safety features, including ESP. Additionally, the batteries themselves are protected by a crash element. If the airbag is triggered, the high-voltage technology is disabled automatically.
Manufacturing and model variants. In 2011, Mercedes-Benz manufactured some 400 Vito E-CELL vans in its Vitoria plant in the Basque region in Spain. There, the Vito E-CELL is manufactured on the same assembly lines as all other Vito vans. Mercedes-Benz Vans has produced a series of 2000 E-CELL vehicles since 2011.
Mercedes-Benz plans additional model variants for even greater practice- and customer-oriented purposes. Since the Vito E-CELL has an EU type approval, no monitoring organization assessment is required for licensing within the EU, and special directives for high-voltage technology are also not applicable.
Mercedes-Benz is preparing to deploy the Vito in other regions of Germany, and in most western European countries as well.