In the world of electric vehicles, it’s not all motorbikes and subcompact cars. As regular readers would know, battery-powered SUVs, mid-sized cars and even sportscars have already started appearing on showroom floors or are in development. Commercial vehicles, however, have been a little thinner on the ground. As we reported in February, Mercedes-Benz is doing its bit to rectify this with its new Vito E-CELL, and more details are now filtering through as the vehicle moves closer to production.
Mercedes-Benz says the Vito E-Cell will be significantly less expensive to operate than a Vito powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE), with such a vehicle incurring four to seven times the costs of a Vito E-CELL recharged overnight with low-priced off-peak power.
Electric V Internal Combustion Engine VitoThe Vito E-CELL will have an operating range of around 130km (80 miles) and will be able to carry a payload of around 900kg (1.984 lbs). The vehicle’s top speed is limited to 80 km/h (50 mph) to maximize the operating range of the batteries. The exterior of the van is the same as the conventionally powered Vito right down to the charging socket which is located behind the flap usually concealing the fuel filler pipe. The ground clearance and angle of approach/departure are also practically unchanged compared to the ICE Vito.
In place of the usual four and six-cylinder engines plus peripheral units of the Vito, the engine cover of the Vito E-CELL conceals the electric motor and its ancillary systems. The electric motor, a permanent synchronous unit, develops a continuous output of 60 kW and a peak output of 70 kW. Maximum torque is 280 Nm. Power is transferred to the front wheels via a single speed transmission.
BatteriesThe battery pack, consisting of 16 modules with a total of 192 cells and is housed under the load compartment floor, where the propshaft and fuel tank are usually located. The total capacity of the batteries is 36 kWh, of which 32 kWh are available to power the vehicle.
The electric motor reaches its greatest efficiency at around 30 degrees Celsius (86F) so the batteries, electric motor, converter and other electrical components are water-cooled.
ChargingCharging stations will be installed on the business premises of the fleets involved in the customer trials in the Berlin and Stuttgart regions. The charging socket of the Vito E-CELL is connected to the station using a standard seven-pin charging cable. The batteries are charged at 380/400-volt mains with charging taking a maximum of six hours if the batteries are fully discharged. The Vito E-CELL can also be charged from the 230-volt mains if required using an additional charging cable with a conventional domestic plug. This will double the charging time though.
Smart Charge Communication UnitThe Vito E-CELL’s Smart Charge Communication Unit (SCCU) allows charging to be scheduled at off-peak times. This can also be done centrally on a PC and allows several vehicles in a fleet to be charged in parallel without overloading the mains network. Vehicle availability can also be calculated depending on the charge status of the batteries with the fleet operator able to call up this information and the available operating range of the vehicles on a PC.
Regenerative brakingThe Vito E-CELL also features regenerative braking which converts braking energy into electrical power to charge its batteries. Mercedes calls it energy recuperation because energy is also captured on the overrun and when reducing speed.
The Vito E-CELL van comes with a heatable driver’s seat, multifunction steering wheel, heatable and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors and a reversing camera with monitor as standard.
To demonstrate that the electric van on its way to series production and not an experimental vehicle or a prototype, the Vito E-CELL will be produced on the same lines, together with all the other Vito models, in its Vitoria plant.
Mercedes-Benz will deliver 100 Vito E-CELL vans to customers between August and December this year. Half each will be taken into operation in Berlin and Stuttgart, and further units will be used in the Basque region of Spain early next year. These customer trials for the Vito E-CELL are scheduled for four years and roughly 80,000 km per vehicle, after which the 100 vans will be returned to Mercedes-Benz. A further 2,000 units are already planned from 2011.