Mercedes-Benz Vans has unveiled its strategic future initiative adVANce, featuring their all-electric "Vision Van", as they invest around 5 million euros in looking at digitalisation, automation and robotics in vans as well as innovative mobility solutions.
Having looked at the changing requirements of their customers, the transformation of the van industry via various economic and social trends, including both urbanisation and the growth in e-commerce, the increase in platform-based industries, and the advancement of intelligent networking technology, Mercedes-Benz Vans are looking to head up the future of Vans throughout the world.
"In the first six months of this year, we brought in the best results yet for Mercedes-Benz Vans. This provides us with an excellent foundation to position our vans division systematically for the future," says Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. "To live up to the dramatic changes in our sector, we adapt our 'Mercedes-Benz Vans goes global' strategy and expand it beyond the product and untapped international markets. 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."
With the adVANce initiative, Mercedes-Benz Vans is systematically making use of present-day and future technological opportunities presented by digitalisation, automation and robotics to identify customer requirements of tomorrow. And this means developing from a mere vehicle manufacturer into a provider of system solutions that can offer up ideas that will offer integrated and intelligent systems in addition to its basic vehicles in the future, making the transportation of goods and passengers even more efficient, and opening up new business opportunities and economic benefits for customers.
One such idea involves the increase in requirements in the online industry, where demand for same-day delivery or delivery within an hour is increasing rapidly, and in urbanisation, where the fact that, by 2030, more than two thirds of the world's population will be living in towns and cities, brings a need for a fast and efficient service that is carried out in an environmentally friendly way.
Part of the solution offers up as part of the adVANce initiative is the "Vision Van", an all-electric vehicle that "combines various innovative solutions for last-mile delivery in urban and suburban environments."
Boasting that the van will be the first one worldwide to "fully digitally connect all people and processes involved, from the distribution centre to the consignee", not only does it feature a fully automated cargo space, but also the incredible innovation of integrated delivery drones, all set to deliver multiple packages to nearby customers by air - even when they aren't at home!
By using this in addition to manual deliveries, it makes the deliverer's job easier, reduces delivery time, and offers the customer a faster service, especially when it comes to same-day delivery. In fact. Mercedes-Benz suggest that the whole idea of, and technology within, the Vision Van could boost efficiency by up to 50% when it comes to that final mile in the delivery cycle.
"With the Vision Van from Mercedes-Benz Vans we provide an idea of future generations of vans: the intelligent automation technology connects the entire process, from loading and transportation by road through to delivery to the consignee. This makes it easier for the deliverer to do business and rapidly reduces the delivery time for end customers," adds Volker Mornhinweg.
The Vision Van is equipped with a 75 kW electric drive and has a range that can be extended from an initial 80 km to around 270 km. Obviously, this means that all deliveries are emission-free, but there is also the added bonus of the fact that the electric drive system means that the Vision Van also moves almost silently. This means that it can be operated in cities even during times when there are traffic restrictions or for late-night deliveries in residential areas. And all you will hear, if you listen carefully, is the sounds that you heard when milk floats were prevalent!
If the whole thing sounds a bit "pie in the sky" (or "drone in the sky" in this instance), Mercedes-Benz don't think so. The adVANce initiative is looking very seriously at three fields of innovation:
Quite how long it will be before Mercedes-Benz Vans such as the Sprinter and the Vito feature Vision versions, it is hard to say. But if the world changes as it has been doing, and customer requirements and demands increase as they have been, the smart money is on 'not long'.