All-electric work van? It might be in the cards.

Mercedes-Benz's next-generation of its Sprinter utility van could get an all-electric powertrain, The Detroit Bureau says, citing Ulf Zillig, head of project VS30 at Mercedes-Benz. It won't be a guaranteed option, but Mercedes is designing the trucks with both batteries and autonomous-driving features in mind. The updates will be available as soon as 2018.

Last week, Mercedes announced plans for the Urban eTruck. That heavy-duty short-haul concept vehicle, designed for urban deliveries, will have a 124-mile single-charge range. More importantly, Mercedes-Benz says the truck delivers 8,100 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. Additionally, Daimler has been running trials of the all-electric Fuso Canter E-Cell for the past two years.

Still, while electric utility vans seem to make sense, the reality is that they've been hard to successfully develop. In 2012, Azure Dynamic, which had been making the powertrain the Ford Transit Connect Electric (TCE) delivery van, went bankrupt, causing production of that vehicle to be halted. That year, Bright Automotive, maker of those racy extended-range plug-in utility vehicles, shut down after saying that the US Department of Energy was taking too long to deliver on its promised loans. And in 2013, Smith Electric stopped production of its all-electric delivery trucks.

Of course, one of the things that interests us in this Mercedes-Benz electric Sprinter van concept is the possibility of a torquey beast of an electric van. Last month, a startup called Atieva released a video of its modified Mercedes-Benz Vito van equipped with a 900-horsepower electric drivetrain that was shown beating a Tesla Model S and a Ferrari California in a drag race.


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