It may not be the sexiest electric vehicle on display at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, but the Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell is definitely one of the hardest working. The MPV carries up to seven passengers without blowing a puff of tailpipe smoke. Mercedes used the show to present a transparent model of the upcoming van.
While some past E-Cells were concerned with looks and athletics, the Vito is all personality and heart. Mercedes claims it as the "first seven-seater vehicle worldwide to offer local emission-free mobility ex-factory as standard."
The "crewbus" travels up to 80 miles (130 km), so it's not an effective people hauler for road trips or long airport shuttle routes - it's more comfortable on short commutes within city limits. Mercedes sees it as a useful tool for businesses, such as hotels that offer a shuttle around the city or tour buses for parks and nature preserves - essentially any business that needs to carry a van-load of people short distances and wants to cut emissions out of the equation. The van travels at speeds up to 55 mph (89 km/h), so it's definitely better off on city streets than the likes of the Autobahn.
Though the production model will be available in a few months, Mercedes chose to focus on a transparent model in Geneva, giving attendees a look through the window of electric mobility. The show model uses LEDs to light up the path that electrons take from the 36 kWh lithium ion batteries to the 60 kW motor on the front axle.
The lithium-ion battery pack can be charged in five hours via a 380/400-volt source. It can also be charged via a 230-volt system, but Mercedes does not give a time frame. The battery also receives charge from regenerative braking.
Mercedes has deployed a fleet of 230 Vito E-Cell vans in commercial applications throughout Germany. Together, the vans have racked up 404,000 miles (650,000 km) of driving during the past year. Mercedes says the Vito has proven itself as an effective means of intra-city transport. It will begin selling the Vito in 15 European countries in May of this year and plans to deliver 2,000 vans to customers around Europe by the end of the year.