Mercedes is building up to a serious attack on the EV sector and we’re waiting for big news in Paris. So it’s slightly odd timing, but the German manufacturer has just revealed an all-electric delivery van concept that will be fully autonomous with a robot drone delivery crew.

It all sounds a little much right now, but then this is just a concept and so Mercedes’ designers can let their imagination run wild.

Mercedes has pledged to plough $560 million into the adVANce and Vision Van concepts, which comprises van digitalization, automation and robotics. That is a drop in the ocean compared to the amount it will spend on the EQ brand, but it’s still a substantial amount.

Mercedes electric van of the future

A multinational collaboration

200 employees will set to work in Stuttgart, Berlin and Silicon Valley and they will collaborate with a selection of start-ups to bring this dream to life. Those start-ups include Matternet on these shores.

The electric van is obviously the first hurdle and even if the robot delivery men don’t come as part of the package, an autonomous van with 75kW and more than 165 miles of range will surely find a use in the wider world.

Mercedes, though, is keen to evolve and the business division of the company is focused on turning the company into a full ‘systems solution provider’, which means they’re angling for juicy contracts with the online shops.

It goes well beyond even the likes of Amazon and eBay, too, as the manufacturing world will soon shift to 3D printed goods en masse and that will mean localized production. It will change the world of logistics and autonomous vans, on the face of it, are the logical option.

Tesla is looking into the market and the home delivery sector is turning into a battleground fought by vans, drones and more. But Mercedes is well up for the fight and seems to have covered all the bases with this one concept.

“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,” said Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, at today’s Van Innovation Campus in Stuttgart.

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“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 center on wheels. In order to do this, we are investing around half a billion euros over the next five years, and we created a separate organizational unit. So far, this approach is unique within the van sector.”

On board drones do the not so heavy lifting

The Vision Van takes care of package loading, route planning, cargo management and delivery drones. A one-shot loading system means that robots can load the van and it comes with two drones that can potentially carry 2kg for up to six miles.

It’s basically a mobile delivery depot and the driver is just there for the rare loads the van cannot handle.

Of course it’s all science fiction for now, but it’s an interesting insight into what could be just round the corner. The future is going to be an amazing place indeed.

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