The Mercedes-Benz Sustaineer, a “technology demonstrator” based on the eSprinter battery-electric van, was revealed on Oct. 27 as “a tangible impression of just how sustainability in urban delivery operations may look in the future.”
The Sustaineer is aptly named. It’s fitted from its undercarriage to its roof with a range of innovative sustainability features. Built on the fully electric architecture of the eSprinter, it demonstrates solutions the OEM said will improve the quality of life in cities, conserve resources and protect the global climate, and enhance the health and safety of last-mile drivers along with that of other road users.
“The Sustaineer demonstrates the systematic implementation of our sustainable business strategy,” said Marcus Breitschwerdt, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, at the vehicle’s reveal in Stuttgart, Germany. He added that the Sustaineer “pools together a large number of innovations and solutions from Mercedes-Benz Vans and shows the contribution the commercial transport sector can make to climate neutrality, liveable cities, and the conservation of resources.”
Ulf Zillig, Head of Development and Product Development, Mercedes-Benz Vans, said the Sustaineer presents solutions to help achieve a “sustainable, electric, and digital future.” He noted that innovations installed in the tech demonstrator have been developed “with a view to their future series [production] implementation at Mercedes-Benz Vans.”
The Sustaineer boasts such features as specialized filters on the front module and underbody to capture fine particles coming up off the road (the result of wear from tires, brakes, and asphalt) to cut the van’s emissions by more than 50%.
To reduce fine particle emissions from brake wear, the Sustaineer is fitted with innovative cast iron brake discs with a ceramic coating. The OEM said this spec further reduces wear and the associated production of fine particles. This also increases the service life of the components. “The combination of a regenerative braking system and the ceramic-coated cast iron discs makes the goal of the wear-free brake disc achievable.”
The low rolling resistance of the van’s tires also helps improve urban air quality. The lower the rolling resistance, the lower the rubber wear and therefore the particle emissions, Mercedes-Benz stated.
A “solar roof’ generates enough energy to extend the van’s range by several thousand kilometers a year. The extremely flat solar panels fit seamlessly to the contour of the vehicle roof and produce a maximum peak power of 850 watts on a surface of 5.75 square yards.
The photovoltaic system is “permanently active” and continues to produce energy when the ignition is switched off. Featured as well on the Sustaineer is the innovative use of recycled materials to “demonstrate the potential of a circular economy.”
Heat where it helps
Inside the van, thermal efficiency is increased by providing heat close to drivers and passengers, rather than heating the air, to improve comfort and extend vehicle range. Both the steering wheel and the seat belt can be heated.
The seat belt has extremely fine heating filaments with a woven-in electrical output of 70 watts. According to the OEM, this provides “a pleasant degree of warmth to the upper body, where a particularly large number of temperature receptors are found.” The seat belt also has a more rapid warming effect than a heated seat.
The Sustaineer also shows off the Speed Delivery Door developed by Mercedes‑Benz Vans. This not only boosts ergonomics and efficiency, it also opens and closes much more quietly than conventional sliding doors. An automatic, sensor-controlled double swivelling door on the front passenger seat side, it replaces the side sliding door to the load compartment “on request.”
A light barrier detects the driver as soon as he or she leaves the seat and enters the load compartment. Then the Speed Delivery Door unlocks itself and opens automatically and quietly, a bonus for city residents compared with the noise of a sliding door, especially if dirt has collected in the door track over time.
From the inside, the Speed Delivery Door is transparent so the driver can see the pavement before climbing out. There’s also a monitor on the door that displays the image from the electronic Mirror Cam that replaces the conventional exterior mirrors. “In this way, the system makes a major contribution to safety – both for the driver and other road users,” Mercedes-Benz noted. “The risk of collision with passers-by, in particular cyclists, is significantly reduced.
Look, no mirrors
Instead of conventional large exterior mirrors, the Sustaineer is fitted with two digital Mirror Cams. These increase the field of vision and therefore the safety of the driver and other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. At the same time, the compact design of the camera attachment on the cab reduces drag and energy consumption. Inside, the driver can see two displays showing the precise views of the cameras. The screens are integrated directly into the windshield. They can easily be removed and reattached, should the windshield need replacing due to stone chip damage.
Another digital mirror replaces the traditional interior rear-view mirror. This camera system shows the traffic conditions behind the vehicle even when it is not possible to see directly to the rear – such as with windowless rear doors or a fully loaded cargo area. The digital rear-view mirror also serves as a monitor for the Cargo Cam that provides a clear view into the load compartment. With this setup, a partition window is no longer needed. The Sustaineer also has an additional exterior mirror monitor on the Speed Delivery Door to enable the driver to exit safely.
The OEM stressed that its commitment to “electromobility” is central to advancing sustainable technology, stating that Mercedes-Benz is “preparing to go fully electric before the end of the decade – wherever market conditions allow.”
Part and parcel with that, the company said that from the middle of this decade forward, all its new vehicle architecture will be electric only, including a completely new van architecture, called VAN.EA, now under development.
Mercedes-Benz Vans also said that in the second half of 2022, it will be successively roll out a sustainable repair concept in all van segments to prolong the life cycle of the high-voltage batteries installed in these vehicles.
“To the three Rs in the circular economy of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ a fourth can now be added: ‘repair.’” In addition, Mercedes-Benz Vans said that by 2030, it aims “to reduce the use of primary resources used in drive systems and battery technology by 40% compared with today’s figure.”