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Commercial vehicles will be a key to growing Australia’s sluggish electrified vehicle adoption rate, believes the local division of Mercedes-Benz Vans.

Daimler will begin series production of EV vans from the end of 2018, with mid-sized Vito and larger Sprinter iterations to be available — first in Europe, but eventually elsewhere.

EV ownership rates are low in Australia when measured against other mature markets, given the lack of subsidisation. But commercials could be a solution to increase volume, driven by fleets seeking to lower their emissions — and gain good PR from doing so.

“We believe commercial vehicles will be another driving force for electric vehicle adoption in Australia and New Zealand,” Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia managing director Diane Tarr said this week.

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“It has the potential to create more demand and with that comes more electric vehicle infrastructure and awareness of the benefits this technology provides.

“We already have preliminary interest from some major fleet customers who are looking to improve efficiency and sustainability in their operations. It will be interesting to watch how this evolves in our market.”

However, the arrival of EV vans before the end of the decade in Australia seems slim, with Tarr adding that while the electric vans would eventually be offered globally, “we are focusing on the European market [first]”.

Mercedes-Benz’s new worldwide electric van rollout — its second since a smaller test in 2011 with the Vito E-Cell  — will begin with a pilot program in partnership with German logistics giant Hermes, to eventually electrify its fleet.

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The companies are to start using battery-electric vehicles in the logistics provider’s normal figurative last-mile operations in Stuttgart and Hamburg in early 2018.

By the end of 2020, Hermes Germany intends to deploy 1500 electric vans in urban areas across Germany.

This trial was partially triggered by the rapid growth in online retailing and the resulting challenges for courier-express-parcel companies. One stated advantage is the silent running of EV vans, meaning they can go all night.

By the year 2025, Hermes plans to carry out deliveries in the inner-city areas of all major German cities free of emissions.

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Quote from head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Volker Mornhinweg:

“Electric drive is a key technology for urban transport – especially in commercial use. Last-mile deliveries must become more efficient and – in specific applications – emission-free.

“Last year, we announced that we would put a Mercedes-Benz electric van into series production again; our first one was in 2011.

“We are proud that we can already announce that Hermes will be our first customer – and with a significant number of vehicles at that.”

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