Mercedes-Benz plans to invest € 500 mn over the next five years, towards integrating digitalisation, automation and robotics in its vans, and has unveiled its new, all-electric ‘Vision Van’ study that has a range of up to 270 km and fully automated cargo space.
The Mercedes Vision Van study has been developed under the German manufacturer’s ‘adVANce’ initiative, with which Mercedes-Benz aims to develop commercial vehicles that take into account changing economic and social trends, the growth in e-commerce, intelligent networking and the Internet of Things (IoT). The aim is to integrate digitalisation, automation and robotics into the commercial vans of the future, which can make the transportation of goods and passengers more efficient and open up new business opportunities for the owners of these vehicles.
Speaking at the Van Innovation Campus in Stuttgart last week, Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, explained that it’s important for the company to systematically plan for the future, to make sure its vehicles keep up with a fast changing business environment. ‘We are focusing our attention beyond the vehicle on the entire value chain and business environment of our customers. We provide transport solutions for the digital age and evolve the van into an intelligent, interconnected data centre on wheels,’ he says.
The all-electric ‘Vision Van’ study has been designed for providing innovative last-mile delivery solutions, with full digital connectivity between all people and processes involved, from the distribution centre to the eventual consignee. The van also features a fully automated cargo space and integrated delivery drones, which reduces delivery time and facilitates the ‘same day delivery’ business model that many modern e-commerce companies are now adopting.
The zero-emissions Vision Van is powered by a 75 kW electric motor and has a range of up to 270 km. Its fully automated cargo space eliminates the need for human intervention for rearranging packages while making multiple deliveries, makes loading and unloading much faster and increases process efficiency. The system is capable of ‘one-shot loading’ (loading the vehicle with all pre-picked parcels in one go), thereby reducing downtime and eliminating the chances of human error.
Of course, the Vision Van is still a few years away from becoming production reality, but Mercedes-Benz is already investing in various start-ups in the areas of automation, robotics and mobility services as a first step towards making this dream a reality. The company, which sold 176,200 vans in the first half of the year, is making sure its stays relevant in the years and decades to come.