Electric transporters, such as the Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell, are always judged on two issues: range and payload. In a test conducted by trans aktuell magazine in 2012, the transporter achieved a range of 100 kilometers per battery charge and a payload between 1540 and 1650 lbs. (700 and 750 kg), depending on the weight of the driver, .
Why should an entrepreneur buy a vehicle such as the Vito E-Cell? The tester from trans aktuell provided the following reason: increasing fuel prices will leave few alternatives to regenerative energy drives in the long run.
Vito E-Cell Can’t Deny Its Roots
But what use is the Vito E-Cell in real life? The passenger cell of the electric transporter is typical for the Vito. Only some details of the combined instrument deviate from the combustion engine version. Operating the installed heating requires some familiarization. The driver first has to switch on the additional heater of the E-Cell. This turns on an immersion heater that heats water, which, in turn, heats the ventilation air. However, the fan must be switched on separately. The reason for this unusual solution is that the engine does not produce enough waste heat to heat the interior.
The driving dynamics of the Vito E-Cell made a good impression on the testers. The E-Cell impressed with its driving performance on the “trans aktuell” test track in Münsingen, Swabia. A torque of 280 Newton meters is appropriate for city traffic. It hardly matters that the Electro-Mercedes blocks speeds above 56 mph (90 km/h), as Electro-Mercedes drivers will most likely not stumble onto a freeway. The chassis makes a comfortable impression up to that speed.
The Vito E-Cell Impresses with Good Road Holding
The evenly distributed weight of the batteries at the bottom of the car had a positive effect on the road holding, according to the experts. But the driver should not drive for too long at maximum speed, as the engine power required tends to drain both batteries. However, that will not happen all too often when the use of the exhaust-free vehicle is restricted to city traffic.
Some familiarization is required before the electric transporter can be driven in the city, in a way that minimizes the use of battery charge. This also means that the driver should generally avoid full acceleration. It helps that the tachometer in the combined instrument has been replaced by a load gauge. Recuperation while braking provides partial recovery of the used energy. The battery can also be charged while driving downhill. All that is required is to take the foot off the accelerator.
Regular Visits to the Power Socket
The E-Vito must regularly return to the power socket, irrespective of the driving style. The trips will have to be well planned, because once the batteries are discharged, the vehicle is out of commission for at least five hours, provided that a power socket with 400 Volt current is available. The time is almost doubled when a (European) domestic 220 Volt socket is used.
How good the practical use of electro-mobility is, strongly depends on the infrastructure. Vehicles with combustion engines can refuel almost everywhere, while drivers of electric vehicles have to plan their daily trips very carefully. There are several charging stations in Germany, but not all of them provide 400 Volt current, and only a few of them have the Mennekes-2 plug that is common in vehicles. Home chargers, i.e. charging stations to be used at home or at a business, should remedy that problem. These devices are relatively small, easy to install and easy to handle. Only the price of almost 2000 € per device might be a deterrent, according to the expert testers almost two years ago.