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Hermes set to send Mercedes electric vans soaring with new fleet purchase

Hanjo Schneider and Volker Mornhinweg Source: Daimler

It has been announced that Daimler and Hermes have finalised an agreement for the courier service to purchase up to 1500 all-electric fleet vehicles.

Initially, the partnership will undergo a trial phase, starting in 2018, which could lead to the full fleet implementation going through by 2020. Hermes intends to use the upcoming all-electric versions of Mercedes’ Vito and Sprinter vans, in Stuttgart and Hamburg. The German branch of the courier has full electrification in mind and has revealed that it wants to achieve this in all major German cities by 2025.

More so, the purchase is underpinned by what Daimler is calling a “strategic partnership” whereby the two companies jointly collaborate on the development of a new concept for an “efficient charging infrastructure at Hermes logistics centers (sic) and IT services for optimum control of the electric fleet.” The press release goes on to specify that the IT system will include route planning, charging networks, range, and temperature factors. In time, this will also encompass what Daimler is calling “a holistic system solution” as part of the future ‘adVANce’ initiative. The project will follow an investment of up to 500 million euros, and will affect Hermes by managing efficiency and improving software, maintenance, goods, and leasing services.

Speaking of the latter, the partnership will see Hermes receive a special leasing deal for itself and its partners. This will include flexible leasing periods and access to a pool of rental vehicles that can be used at short notice. Similarly, driver training courses will be implemented and operators will receive instruction on basic repair and maintenance. Ultimately, the program is intended to support the courier in the smooth conversion of its fleet, but it also marks an interesting direction for the potential of other fleet-driven services. Companies that cannot afford to go all electric may also be able to take advantage of easy-to-lease electric vehicles and thereby reducing their emissions and costs.

Currently, Daimler and Hermes are testing five battery-powered Fuso Canter E-CELL vehicles but there is no definitive answer to the questions around the Vito and Sprinter specifications. In 2016, at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Mercedes-Benz unveiled plans for a new electric van set to go into production in 2018. Details are sketchy at best but it was revealed that the EV would feature a new drivetrain and a scalable battery size.

Prior to this, Mercedes-Benz had developed the Vito E-CELL, producing around 1000 units, but the project seemed to go silent after 2013. At the IAA vehicle show, the automaker also spoke of its Vision Van concept which is similar, in size and aesthetics, to the Mercedes Sprinter. Head of Mercedes-Benz, Volker Mornhinweg, said that the Vision Van, as fully electric, will have a motor capable of providing 75kW of power and have a range of between 50 and 168 miles.

Vision Van Source: Daimler
Vision Van
Source: Daimler

The recent press release regarding the partnership has gone on to specify that the concept details, from the 2016 IAA show, would be relevant to the upcoming models to be sold to Hermes. The batteries for the vehicles will be manufactured by Deutsche Accumotive GmbH, in Kamenz, Saxony, while the drivetrain will be developed in-house. The announcement credits the “production maturity”, honed by passenger car development, as a key reason for the company’s promise to deliver high quality and low cost transit vehicles. Finally, the project is to be supported by a 150 million euro investment from Daimler.

The courier-express-parcel (CEP) company has given further details regarding its zero-emissions targets. As well as plans to electrify all of its deliveries to urban areas in Germany, it will be using 100% regenerative energy sources to charge its vans’ batteries. The parent company, the Otto Group, has also committed to its strategy to reduce the CO2 emissions of the whole group by at least half before the end of 2020.

The all-rounder approach appears to be a reaction to the need for more comprehensive range of fleet equipment that can manage the increasing level of pressure on Daimler’s customers. Indeed, this green direction has been triggered by rapid growth of online retailing and the resulting demands on CEP companies. Mornhinweg elaborated; “Today’s van customers need far more than just cargo space on four wheels. They need vehicles adapted to their specific area of application. This includes low- and zero-emissions drives as well as intelligent solutions extending beyond the vehicle itself.”

In other positive but unsubstantiated news, UPS, and the US Department of Energy, recently revealed plans to use 17 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in its fleet. The vehicles, debuted at the 2017 Advanced Clean Transport Expo, will begin by delivering parcels for state government offices in Sacramento. Clearly, there is both funding and research available to develop low and zero-emission fleets for delivery services, which, in turn, is promising improved efficiency and reduced cost.

About Catherine Campbell

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