*Sprinter Innovation Campus in Stuttgart reveals details of third generation
Since Mercedes-Benz introduced the Sprinter in 1995, its light commercial range has become a global success, having sold more than 3.3 million units in over 130 countries worldwide. As preparations are in full swing to launch the third-generation model early next year, the Sprinter is to become much more than a load or people carrier or utility vehicle.
As Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans explained at this week’s Sprinter Innovation Campus held in Stuttgart: “Up until now the Sprinter segment has been defined above all by payload, cargo volume and economy. These elements of course remain important. But we are supplementing them to include further fundamental aspects which are essential for modern logistics: Full internet connectivity and seamless integration into operational processes, in particular when it comes to IT infrastructure.”
Over a series of Innovation Lab workshops, details of how this new hardware and software has been integrated into the new Sprinter were revealed. Aspects of the Vision Van concept premiered last year at the Van Innovation Campus under the adVANce programme are featured in the new 3.5 to 5.5 tonne LCV, particularly with its electric drivetrain and interior fittings.
“The Sprinter must always be at the forefront of development and the benchmark for transportation – both for major logistics companies and for the trades person’s business round the corner. This is where adVANce comes into play. With adVANce we are developing from being purely a vehicle manufacturer into a supplier of holistic transport and mobility solutions. The initiative is now divided into five areas: 1. With digital@vans, it’s mostly about connectivity and the digital networking of our vehicles. 2. With solutions@vans, we’re developing hardware solutions which make our customers’ daily work more efficient 3. In the rental@vans field, it’s about innovative rental models with a pay-per-use approach, so “Mobility on Demand”. 4. With sharing@vans, we deal with new concepts in local public transport. And 5, with eDrive@vans, we are developing a comprehensive approach to electric mobility. We are extending the fundamental idea of the product’s versatility – so the hardware itself – and transforming it into a new, more intelligent form. In so doing we are still offering the classic Mercedes-Benz strengths such as safety, comfort and quality. Our flagship van is becoming smart hardware which we can adapt together with the customers to suit each of its use cases and every sector.”
Innovation Workshop Labs
In the Sprinter Versatility Lab, the first onsite regarding how the new interior is shaping up for the new Sprinter. From what was displayed, even the basic entry level version is light years away from the current model. Three specification types were highlighted, all of which features good, thoughtful driver ergonomics with a number of design elements carried over from Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. Any of the three dash units with different fittings can be ordered at build stage.
“Generally speaking, the new Sprinter offers an enormous variety of variables. That begins with the structural variants: Classic cab or crew cab, as a bus or panel van or as a right-or left-hand-drive vehicle depending on the sales market. Additionally, there are four different body lengths, variable tonnages and suitable load compartment heights. And of course, we also offer all drive types. All in all, this results in a huge variety of versions: We shall be offering the new Sprinter in over 1,000 standard versions,” said Volker.
In the eSprinter Lab, the primary focus was on zero emission electric mobility (eMobility). As part of the eDrive@VANs module it’s not simply about building a battery pack on wheels; “Together with our customers we want to develop an individual ecosystem. This is why we provide advice on a sustainable basis and on request we offer a suitable charging infrastructure or we equip vehicles for e-Mobility with connectivity services. And when providing advice, we also ensure that this concept is optimally integrated into the existing operating processes. Incidentally, in the medium term we shall be electrifying our entire commercial portfolio. By 2019 we shall be investing an additional €150 million in this area. Our aim is contemporary electric mobility which not only relieves the burden on cities and the environment, but also offers businesses genuine added value,” explained Volker.
Under the theme Digitalisation & Intelligence, infotainment, telematics, connectivity and the latest technology turn the new Sprinter into smart hardware: “The key to this is our new Mercedes PRO brand, which is a digital ecosystem into which our networked vehicles, products and services are integrated. For our commercial customers, Mercedes PRO pools all the offers from Mercedes-Benz Vans under one roof. In conjunction with the new Sprinter we are offering our customers a wide range of networked services: The many different tasks which fleet management entails can be taken care of via one portal on one screen.”
The best example of this was seen at the CEP & eGrocery Lab, with CEP standing for the growing courier, express and parcel services sector.
“The CEP sector is characterised by huge cost pressure. Speed and flexibility are also called for. This is especially apparent in the fast-growing trend towards ordering groceries online too. Known as eGrocery, this is to a certain extent a special CEP case and has requirements all of its own: Just think of the different temperatures needed for beverages, milk products and frozen pizza. With eGrocery the refrigerated body of a van has to be divided into different climate zones so that the goods arrive with the customer in precisely the same condition in which they would take them from the shelf in the supermarket. These circumstances ask a great deal of the vehicle and load compartment concept,” he added.
At the People Moving Lab it was about passenger transport, a segment the Sprinter has a large market share and will expand further, according to Volker, due to the increasing burden of traffic in cities, new concepts such as ride sharing and ride pooling are becoming ever more popular.
With Crafts & Services, how the new Sprinter can help trades people or service personnel to become more efficient in their everyday work was demonstrated. For example, Mercedes-Benz is testing a service known as In-Van-Delivery & Return. The stock of replacement parts in the vehicle is managed by logistics service providers. This makes the work of our customers more efficient and gives them time for additional orders.