After watching the European market with an envious eye, American Mercedes-Benz Sprinter aficionados will finally be able to get their hands on an eSprinter, and the new model is better than ever. In fact, judging by the specs of the 2024 eSprinter, I’d expect to see these things dropping off mega packs of dried mango in cities across America by the end of this year. However, it already has a formidable competitor on the U.S. market — the Ford E-Transit. Time for a little spec sheet comparison.
Cargo vans are a pretty perfect application for EVs, given that many spend time wandering about urban environments, dropping off deliveries within cities and greater metropolitan areas. They don’t need a ton of range, they often idle for extended periods, and fleet operators like low running costs. Between the complexity of maintaining a modern diesel and the cost of diesel fuel, there’s a good argument to be had for an electric Sprinter.
Of course, similar arguments can be made about the E-Transit. Not only is electricity cheaper than wasting fossil fuels idling away, the E-Transit starts at a remarkably low $55,685 in cargo van form including a $1,895 freight charge. Add in the ubiquity of Ford dealerships for servicing and the E-Transit makes a strong argument for itself.
Powering every American-market eSprinter is a 113 kWh lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery pack, which is both much bigger than the E-Transit’s 67 kWh battery pack and a pretty smart decision on Mercedes’ part. Even though LFP batteries aren’t the best of the bunch for energy density, they’re quite safe, have long lifespans of around 5,000 charge cycles, and don’t use expensive cobalt or nickel in their construction. Peak DC fast charging speed of 115 kW means that it’ll take some time to fully juice up the eSprinter, but that charging speed matches the eSprinter’s main competitor, the Ford E-Transit. Mind you, the E-Transit does have the edge when it comes to Level 2 charging speed, supporting 11.3 kW of juice compared to the Merc’s 9.6 kW. Speaking of charging, the actual charging port on the eSprinter is hidden behind the Mercedes badge on the grille, a stealthy yet quirky bit of design.
As for getting that juice to the ground, eSprinter customers will be able to choose between two motor options: A 100 kW motor as base spec, and a 150 kW motor as an upgrade. Both put out 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) of torque, down 22 lb.-ft. over the Ford. However, the electric Mercedes still cranks out more torque than its basic four-cylinder diesel equivalent, so it should still be alright for urban duty. Speaking of urban duty, range of around 248 miles on the WLTP cycle means that the eSprinter likely isn’t a best bet for long trips, but it should offer comparable EPA range to the E-Transit and be perfectly fine for city deliveries.
Unusually, the latest eSprinter will be launched in America before it comes to Europe. North American customers can look forward to these vans arriving in the second half of 2023, although these early models won’t come with a ton of choice. A long 170-inch wheelbase and a high roof are both mandatory, which isn’t brilliant compared to the E-Transit’s three available lengths and three available roof heights. I’d expect Mercedes to up the bodystyle count eventually, but this early limitations means the eSprinter isn’t best suited to stuff like low-clearance applications.
As the eSprinter is still a Sprinter, the interior is surprisingly lovely for that of a van. You get Mercedes’ techy MBUX infotainment system, some really nice switchgear, a steering wheel that punches above the commercial vehicle weight class, and some properly ornate air vents. Sure, hardwearing plastics abound, but this is a commercial van, so materials that hold up are a better choice than surfaces that are soft to the touch. Speaking of the interior, that cargo area totals a whopping 488 cubic feet, and maximum gross vehicle weight tops out at four and a quarter tons, seven tenths of a cubic foot ahead of a high-roof extended-length E-Transit, but half a ton down from the Ford in its optimal payload configuration.
While all American-market eSprinter vans will be built in Charleston, S.C., there’s no word yet on whether or not they qualify for federal tax rebates. I suspect this thing might not qualify for the Inflation Reduction Act’s $7,500 rebate for private individuals, but CNBC reports that the $40,000 credit for green commercial vehicles comes with fewer restrictions, so the eSprinter may qualify for that.
While merely competitive rather than groundbreaking on paper, the possibility of a hefty commercial tax rebate, solid urban range, and a rather nice interior add up to make the Mercedes-Benz eSprinter a very tantalizing proposition. While initial choice of bodystyles seems limited compared to the Ford E-Transit, the eSprinter should still find its fair share of fans. Of course, that could be dampened depending on pricing, but we likely won’t know how MSRP plays into it until closer to the van’s on-sale date. Regardless, expect the upcoming eSprinter to stick around for a few years. According to Automotive News, its replacement has been delayed from 2026 until 2028.
(Photo credits: Mercedes-Benz, Ford)
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Just recalled a decade or more ago I ran a fleet of vans for the local newspaper. We looked at Sprinters to replace the ICE fleet. If I recall parts needed ordered from Germany and all repair and maintainance work needed done at Mercedes not Dodge dealers. So i did some digging oil changes a million dollars replacement parts order a van for use in down time.
As a prior owner of a Mission Tortilla delivery route i dont understand these puny little vans. I received and delivered6 or more pallets every week. All the bread and chip people as well as tortillas use around 20 foot box trucks. The meat guy doing jerky used a van but the hard candy guy used a box truck too. These are suitable for less than 20% of the market.
Over here in the UK, and in the middle of a city, I reckon electric vans are maybe 20% of the delivery vehicles I see on our street. So for this particular use case (delivering packages in a dense area), they clearly make business sense.
Mind you, that’s almost certainly helped by not having to worry about my city’s new low -emissions zone.
After selling my mechanically cursed ’97 conversion Econoline-150 in 2019, I’m looking forward to the possibility of used conversion E-Transits possibly being affordable in 15-20 years.
Not sure why you’re saying this has comparable range to the E-Transit. Judging both by their WLTP figures, the E-Sprinter has 25-50% more range. That makes a big difference! For my job, it’s probably the difference between not-enough and good-enough. I’m half expecting to start seeing these turn up at my shop as electrician’s vans later this year.
Honestly I’d much rather get one of these than the e-Transit. A heated windshield is definitely worth it even without the battery advantages the e-Sprinter has over the e-Transit. I’d like the smaller one though with a low roof and AWD.
Here’s to hoping.
Ford initially offered the e-Transit only in a long-wheelbase / high-roof configuration, so I expect the options for e-Sprinter availability will increase within a year or so. What I’d really like to see are e-Transit passenger van options. We’d buy a lot of them if they were available (this kind of thing is part of my job). Better yet would be the mid-size electric Tourneo recently released in Europe.
There’s no mention of where the drivers will have to pee.
I’m not clear on the WLTP cycle vs what we use in the States. Can someone do a deep dive for me?
Not a deep dive, but the E-Transit gets about 30% more range on the WLTP cycle than the EPA cycle. EPA is usually considered reasonably accurate, WLTP is considered unrealistically generous.
Has Rivian or Amazon published the full range of stats for their joint venture delivery van? I’d be interested in seeing how that clean sheet design compares to the sort of retrofitted approach of Ford and Mercedes, even if it’s not available for private purchase.
“…range of around 248 miles on the WLTP cycle…”
It is not clear to me if the WLTP tests are at empty or fully laden weight. Because the purpose of a cargo vans is to carry around cargo, the range for empty vs loaded to the maximum GVWR will vary and matter to buyers.
LFP batteries are fine. Buyers in colder climates will have to take into account a ~20-40% range decrease when the vans are parked in sub-freezing temperatures. Were I designing the battery packs, I would activate battery heaters while plugged in to mitigate the effects of cold.
When you unplug them, are they, ahem, “off the wall?”
No range estimates?
From the Article:
Speaking of urban duty, range of around 248 miles on the WLTP cycle