Mercedes-Benz has just launched series production of its Vito E-Cell van for the European market. The Vito is claimed to be the first electric drive van produced by an automaker at its factory rather then converted off-site like the Smith Electric Vehicles products. About 100 E-Cell vans are scheduled for production by the end of this year with another 2,000 coming in 2011.
The Vito is powered by a 70-kilowatt peak (60 kW continuous) synchronous AC motor with 207 pound-feet of torque. Since this is primarily intended as an urban delivery type vehicle, maximum speed is capped at about 50 miles per hour. A 36 kilowatt-hour liquid-cooled lithium ion battery pack is installed under the cargo floor and 32 kWh is available for propulsion. That's enough energy to move the Vito about 80 miles under nominal conditions. In addition to the battery, the motor and power electronics are also liquid cooled, which should help optimize the durability of the drivetrain.
The vans are equipped with a communications system that allows dispatchers to check battery state of charge when determining which vehicles to send where. The first batch of 100 vans will be going to operators in Berlin and Stuttgart this year.