STUTTGART, Germany – With the unveiling of its new Sprinter van on the horizon early 2018, Mercedes-Benz provided insight into how it developed what it called “the perfect solution to a new era of digital solutions.”
Aiming to provide a “perfectly made vehicle for a variety of uses,” Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said the new Sprinter is more than just a van, but rather a service solution for its customers.
“The Sprinter is the flagship of our commercial fleet and embodies our approach towards an integrated system solution,” said Mornhinweg. “Comprehensive industry-specific know-how, a vehicle that is adaptable to different transport requirements and innovative networking services add up to an all-embracing fully integral product offering. The Sprinter is the first example of this new class of vehicle from Mercedes-Benz Vans and represents our understanding of the concept of smart hardware in every respect.”
Through the use of six educational labs, the company highlighted key factors into what it took into consideration when conceiving the new Sprinter van, including the contention that with the release of the eSprinter in 2019, as well as the recent unveiling of the eVito, it would begin the process of electrifying all its vans and subsequently commercial fleets.
Despite the company’s push toward electric, the upcoming Sprinter van was the belle of the ball during the Sprinter Innovation Campus tour Dec. 4. The vehicle integrates Mercedes Pro connect services and is the first model to embody the adVANce philosophy, bringing digital, solution, rental, sharing, and eDrive innovations together into one offering. The move shapes the company’s transformation from vehicle manufacturer to provider of integrated transport and mobility solutions.
Versatility was a focal point when it came to the new Sprinter van, with its ability to adapt to a variety of applications being a strong selling point. Whether traveling 6,000kms or 350,000kms a year, making two or 200 stops each day, needing a payload of 200kgs or 3,000kgs, or transporting one or 20 people at a time, Mercedes-Benz said the upcoming Sprinter will be up to the task.
More than 1,000 individual design variants will be available for the upcoming Sprinter.
The new Sprinter’s digital networking ability helps the vehicle provide improved efficiency, as well as optimize a variety of processes.
“We have expanded the already wide-ranging Sprinter portfolio at relevant points and added a multitude of new product features,” said Dr. Ulf Zillig, Mercedes-Benz project manager for the Sprinter. “This will allow us to meet even better the requirements of our commercial customers in the various business sectors, all over the world. The Sprinter is part of the Internet of Things and slots seamlessly into the digital world.”
The vehicle’s Internet connection – with the use of the Mercedes Pro hardware – helps fleets control and optimize communications between fleet managers and drivers, whether it be on the construction site or transporting VIPs via a shuttle service.
Mercedes Pro hardware was introduced as an adaptor in September 2017 and will now be offered on the new Sprinter. Services include vehicle status, logistics, fleet communications, maintenance management, accident recovery, and digital vehicle logs.
Adding to the vehicle’s adaptability, the future Sprinter will be available in four interior designs, ranging from a basic offering for applications such as construction to a higher end version for more detail-oriented driver tasks.
The same interior designs will be available in the upcoming eSprinter.
Mercedes-Benz also touted the new Sprinter as being the perfect solution to a growing eCommerce and online food retailing market.
Global parcel deliveries totaled approximately 44 billion in 2014, and increased by 48% by 2016 to 68 billion parcels, amounting to 420 billion Euros worldwide.
The popularity of eGrocery deliveries has seen a more gradual growth curve, but is expected over the next year to increase by 6% in the U.K., 10.5% in France, and 14.7% in Germany.
The new Sprinter’s ability in a further development stage to transport frozen, cooled, and ambient items in a single vehicle, coupled with technology that maps out the most efficient route and smart lighting to ensure the driver selects the correct item in a timely fashion upon delivery were selling points for the new vehicle.
Matthias Winkenbach, director for MIT’s megacity logistics lab and research scientist at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics, said cities will continue to be hotspots for economic growth, and the top 600 growing cities worldwide will make up 60% of global GDP and 25% of the global population.
With a predicted 40 megacities (cities with a population of 10 million or more) worldwide by 2030, there will be added uncertainty when it comes to last-mile delivery due to increased traffic and other unpredictable scenarios that come with large population centers. He added that last-mile deliveries remain to be the most complex and difficult to optimize part of the supply chain, and with an increase in home deliveries, service providers must be able to be responsive and proactive, flexible, analytics and data driven, connected and integrated, autonomous, and intelligent, which the new Sprinter aims to provide with its emphasis on connectivity.
Ride sharing and carpooling were two services Mornhinweg also said were growing trends with increased populations and traffic in urban centers. The new Sprinter, with its added features like more comfortable seats, smartphone charging stations, and improved air conditioning/heating applications, is intended to provide passenger services, such as airport shuttle, ambulance, and VIP transportation to the marketplace.
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