Mercedes has made some welcome improvements to its eVito medium van offering, but does it go far enough in more ways than one? Professional Builder is charged with the task of finding out
We have all been there, first to arrive at the party, waiting for the other guests to turn up…. only to find that when they do finally make an entrance, they just happen to be the coolest and most interesting new kids in town – who everyone wants to talk to! Mercedes must have felt a bit like that when it launched its first full production 100 per cent electric van to go on sale in the UK. In fact, it was the first medium sized electric van of any kind to become available here. Quite the coup then, the only problem being that with a range of less than 100 miles it was quickly seen as a bit of a party pooper. And, of course, it wasn’t long before all of the other A list players were turning up with distinctly better presents in terms of range and payloads for their potential hosts.
Fast forward to 2023 and the latest eVito offers a much more competitive 162 miles, a significant improvement on the frugal 92 miles that it provided before. Removing at a stroke some – if not all – of the anxieties which still exist when going fully electric. And other improvements have also been made in terms of better charging times and added trim levels.
Based on the front wheel drive of the standard Vito the e version replaces the diesel engine with an 85kW electric motor – equivalent to a somewhat modest 115hp powered by battery packs mounted below the load floor. It comes in two sizes – L2 and L3 – and a single height roof but, at under 1,000 kg, the payload compares unfavourably with some of its competitors, which go up to almost 1,300kg. Having said that, it’s pretty quick off the mark, and with an improved torque rating of 360Nm it gets the load moving really smartly.
Like all electric vans the driving experience takes a little while to become fully accustomed to and the unconventional layout of the eVito controls makes this Initially even more of challenge. The key slot is on the left of the steering wheel, and you select drive and reverse via a steering column mounted lever that’s positioned where just about everyone else puts the windscreen wiper stick. On more than one occasion during our drizzly test drive we found ourselves in neutral rather than switching the wipers on.
The cabin with its low roof also feels a little cramped, but it’s comfortable enough to accommodate three reasonably burly builders. All models come with a seven-inch touchscreen that brings all the smartphone mirroring functions you would expect in a van that costs well in excess of £40,000. Although we have to say, that even though our eyesight is not quite what it once was, the clock and outside temperature indicator are infuriately small.
Adapting your usual driving habits is, of course, key if you are to properly maximise the expected range and the eVito has an unassuming button on the dashboard to help you. There are three modes and they moderate accelerator response and motor power output, as well as dialling back the air conditioning to make the batteries last a bit longer.
The braking modes are controlled by paddle shifts on the steering wheel with a starting default position of D mode. This is the most efficient and works well around town, where you hardly need to touch the brakes at all, but it starts to feel a bit weird when more acceleration is needed quickly. Flicks to the paddle eventually take you to D++ which offers no braking recuperation at all, so you need to keep fully engaged with the road conditions at all times.
And, talking of charging, the eVito now comes with the ability to use a fast charger, getting back 80 per cent of the range in around 35 minutes. A 11kWh wall box will do the same job in six and half hours while a three-pin plug will take a mind numbing 20 hours. The van has the same three-year unlimited mileage warranty as all Mercedes vans and the battery warranty is eight years or just under 100,000 miles. It’s guaranteed to have 70 per cent capacity at the end of this period, but it remains to be seen what impact natural degradation will have on the second-hand market. All vans come with mobile van roadside assistance which is free for a mind boggling thirty years and are fitted with a Can track module which comes with a three-year free subscription. An alarm system is also standard now.
In van terms it’s probably fair to say that Mercedes doesn’t enjoy quite the same cache as it does with its saloon cars. The competition is intense in this sector of the market and, not unsurprisingly, some of the earlier adoption vehicles do not translate into the electric sector as easily as some of the very latest models. There is also the on-going conundrum expressed to us on occasion by some business users, that whilst owning and driving a Mercedes indicates an attractive level of perceived business success, there is the implication in some circles that they must be charging too much for their services! Add in the not insignificant premium for going green and that dilemma isn’t getting easier anytime soon.
For further information on the Mercedes eVito visit Discover the new, all electric Mercedes-Benz eVito Panel | Mercedes-Benz Vans UK.