Automotive

Mercedes shows futuristic concept camper vans with fuel cells and smart home tech

Mercedes shows futuristic conc...
Mercedes debuts the Concept Marco Polo in Düsseldorf
Mercedes debuts the Concept Marco Polo in Düsseldorf
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The Concept Marco Polo explores more integrated camper van control 
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The Concept Marco Polo explores more integrated camper van control 
The Concept Sprinter F-Cell is a Type C motorhome with a fuel cell powertrain
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The Concept Sprinter F-Cell is a Type C motorhome with a fuel cell powertrain
The Concept Sprinter F-Cell can offer up to 330 miles of driving with fuel cell and battery power
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The Concept Sprinter F-Cell can offer up to 330 miles of driving with fuel cell and battery power
The Sprinter F-Cell's fuel cell also works for campsite electricity needs
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The Sprinter F-Cell's fuel cell also works for campsite electricity needs
Mercedes' press release doesn't discuss it, but it appears the Concept Marco Polo also has a remote controlled swing-away hitch rack
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Mercedes' press release doesn't discuss it, but it appears the Concept Marco Polo also has a remote controlled swing-away hitch rack
You can pop the Concept Marco Polo's top with a built-in touchscreen, smartphone app or just your voice
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You can pop the Concept Marco Polo's top with a built-in touchscreen, smartphone app or just your voice
Deploy the awning just as easily
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Deploy the awning just as easily
What's really interesting about the Concept Marco Polo is that with a command as simple as, "Hey Mercedes, I want to relax," the camper van will automatically perform multiple set-up functions to get everything perfect
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What's really interesting about the Concept Marco Polo is that with a command as simple as, "Hey Mercedes, I want to relax," the camper van will automatically perform multiple set-up functions to get everything perfect
Mercedes-Benz Concept Marco Polo
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Mercedes-Benz Concept Marco Polo
The bike carrier swings away, perhaps for access into the lift-gate
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The bike carrier swings away, perhaps for access into the lift-gate
The Concept Marco Polo looks to a more convenient camper van future
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The Concept Marco Polo looks to a more convenient camper van future
Mercedes Concept Marco Polo
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Mercedes Concept Marco Polo
The Concept Marco Polo explores a more futuristic iteration of the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Control system
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The Concept Marco Polo explores a more futuristic iteration of the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Control system
Mercedes Concept Marco Polo
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Mercedes Concept Marco Polo
Opening and closing things via app in the Concept Marco Polo
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Opening and closing things via app in the Concept Marco Polo
Use the smartphone app to drop the rear seats into bed form
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Use the smartphone app to drop the rear seats into bed form
The MBAC module will link the MBUX infotainment system with a living module-mounted touchscreen, tying everything together into one smart control system
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The MBAC module will link the MBUX infotainment system with a living module-mounted touchscreen, tying everything together into one smart control system
The Concept Marco Polo includes an induction charger
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The Concept Marco Polo includes an induction charger
The Concept Marco Polo's ambient lighting can be controlled via touchscreen, app or voice 
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The Concept Marco Polo's ambient lighting can be controlled via touchscreen, app or voice 
Control your camper van from a smartphone or the built-in touchscreens
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Control your camper van from a smartphone or the built-in touchscreens
The Sprinter Connected Home is a near-production concept that shows the advantages of the MBAC module
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The Sprinter Connected Home is a near-production concept that shows the advantages of the MBAC module
Check the locks on your Sprinter camper van via smartphone
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Check the locks on your Sprinter camper van via smartphone
Deploy and retract the power awning on the Sprinter Connected Home with a smartphone or touchscreen
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Deploy and retract the power awning on the Sprinter Connected Home with a smartphone or touchscreen
Mercedes says the MBAC module that serves as the technological heart of the Sprinter Connected Home will be ready for camper vans next year
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Mercedes says the MBAC module that serves as the technological heart of the Sprinter Connected Home will be ready for camper vans next year
The Sprinter Connected Home makes the camper van a rolling smart home
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The Sprinter Connected Home makes the camper van a rolling smart home
The MBAC unit joins the infotainment screen together with a living area touchscreen and app
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The MBAC unit joins the infotainment screen together with a living area touchscreen and app
Control and monitor both camper van and base vehicle systems and features
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Control and monitor both camper van and base vehicle systems and features
With the touchscreen, you can control things like music, climate control and appliances
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With the touchscreen, you can control things like music, climate control and appliances
The Sprinter Connected Home ties the driver cab and camper cabin together with connected technology
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The Sprinter Connected Home ties the driver cab and camper cabin together with connected technology
The Hymermobil B-Class ModernComfort is one of the first motorhomes based on the new Mercedes Sprinter
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The Hymermobil B-Class ModernComfort is one of the first motorhomes based on the new Mercedes Sprinter
Mercedes debuts the Concept Marco Polo in Düsseldorf
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Mercedes debuts the Concept Marco Polo in Düsseldorf
Mercedes debuts the Concept Marco Polo in Düsseldorf
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Mercedes debuts the Concept Marco Polo in Düsseldorf
Mercedes debuts the Concept Marco Polo in Düsseldorf
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Mercedes debuts the Concept Marco Polo in Düsseldorf
Inside the Concept Marco Polo
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Inside the Concept Marco Polo
Inside the Concept Marco Polo
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Inside the Concept Marco Polo
The Concept Sprinter F-Cell on show in Düsseldorf
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The Concept Sprinter F-Cell on show in Düsseldorf
The third hydrogen tank at the rear of the Concept Sprinter F-Cell increases total range to about 330 miles
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The third hydrogen tank at the rear of the Concept Sprinter F-Cell increases total range to about 330 miles
Sprinter Connected Home debut in Düsseldorf
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Sprinter Connected Home debut in Düsseldorf
Sprinter Connected Home debut in Düsseldorf
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Sprinter Connected Home debut in Düsseldorf
Sprinter Connected Home debut in Düsseldorf
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Sprinter Connected Home debut in Düsseldorf
Sprinter Connected Home debut in Düsseldorf
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Sprinter Connected Home debut in Düsseldorf

While Volkswagen is keeping things focused on all things California (and Grand California) at this year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, the other big name in German vans will be showcasing a bit of everything. Mercedes-Benz will bring some of the latest trends in automotive technology over to the camper van side, highlighting fuel cell power and connected convenience in a trio of concept camper vans. On the more "here and now" side, it will also highlight some of the camper van-friendly features of the all-new Sprinter.

Concept Sprinter F-Cell

Mercedes briefly mentioned work on the Concept Sprinter F-Cell earlier this summer (Northern Hemisphere), and it will provide a more proper introduction in Düsseldorf. When developing the new hydrogen-powered concept motorhome, Mercedes-Benz Vans adapted the fuel cell powertrain of last year's GLC F-Cell concept, giving the van 198 hp and 258 lb-ft of near-silent electric motor output. Hydrogen is stored in three underbody tanks offering up to 186 miles (300 km) of range, and an available rear add-on tank ups that total to 311 miles (500 km). The plug-in hybrid set-up allows for an additional 19 (30 km) of battery electric power.

The Concept Sprinter F-Cell is a Type C motorhome with a fuel cell powertrain
The Concept Sprinter F-Cell is a Type C motorhome with a fuel cell powertrain

In a car or SUV, fuel cell powertrains offer the advantage of combining quiet, clean commuting with the potential for longer ranges and easier filling than purely electric vehicles. The advantage list only grows longer and stronger in a camper van or Class C motorhome, where quiet, clean driving will help maintain a more pristine and natural environment at the campground and on the way to and from.

And that pristine, natural environment will also remain intact if you need some extra electricity at camp. The Sprinter F-Cell's fuel cell can be used in place of a generator, offering usable electricity to run power-hungry equipment like the heating, air conditioning and refrigerator. Unlike a gas generator, the fuel cell is quiet and free from polluting emissions, so it won't bother your neighbors.

Mercedes stresses that it intends to bring fuel cell powertrain technology to its van lineup, so a Sprinter F-Cell-like motorhome could be realized in the future. The Sprinter is already a popular base for off-road adventure vans thanks to its available 4x4 system (only factory 4x4 van in the US), and the ability to create usable electricity off the grid could give off-roaders another reason to look at the Sprinter.

Sprinter Connected Home

Another futuristic feature that Mercedes is experimenting with in camper vans is smart home-like connected control. With the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Control (MBAC) module, Mercedes unifies control of driver cab and living cabin components under one streamlined system. The MBUX infotainment display in front can be augmented with a separate touchscreen display in the cabin and a smartphone app, offering streamlined monitoring and control of features all over the van.

Deploy and retract the power awning on the Sprinter Connected Home with a smartphone or touchscreen
Deploy and retract the power awning on the Sprinter Connected Home with a smartphone or touchscreen

The Sprinter Connected Home, which Mercedes classifies as "close to production," showcases some of the specific options camper conversion companies will have in incorporating MBAC into their builds. The new module will offer a host of possibilities, allowing van owners to check and adjust the cabin temperature, adjust the temperature of the refrigerator, control the sound system, extend or retract the powered awning, and tweak the ambient lighting, all via one of the van's built-in touchscreens or remotely from a smartphone.

Some similar app and touchscreen control features are offered in other production camper vans, but it sounds like the Mercedes camper van of the future will be a more fully integrated smart home-on-wheels. And that future isn't so far away – Mercedes says that converters will be able to integrate MBAC into their camper van products beginning in 2019, which explains why the Sprinter Connected Home doesn't even wear a "concept" badge. So Düsseldorf 2019 should bring some pretty high-tech Sprinter camper vans.

Concept Marco Polo

Mercedes steps further into the future with the Concept Marco Polo, building on its popular small camper van with an even more advanced iteration of MBAC control. This pop-top concept offers similar control features as the Connected Home but also throws the option of voice control into the mix. It further centralizes critical camper van features so that you can control systems like the air suspension leveling, pop-up roof and folding rear bench bed with a single command.

Use the smartphone app to drop the rear seats into bed form
Use the smartphone app to drop the rear seats into bed form

Campers activate the voice recognition system by simply saying, "Hey Mercedes." Mercedes says the system will be able to perform multiple actions with a command as simple as "I want to relax," automatically leveling the van, popping the roof open and deploying the awning. The system would even turn on some music and set the ambient lighting, so you go from "just pulled into my campsite" to "ready to hop into bed" in six words and a matter of seconds.

The Concept Marco Polo's voice command system takes care of pretty much everything short of throwing a popped beer in your hand – sure beats pitching a tent or hand-cranking a pop-up trailer. It also works in reverse, getting the Marco Polo from camp mode to drive-away mode with a quick flap of the gums.

The Concept Marco Polo includes an automatic side-window glass darkening system that eliminates the need for curtains. It's similar to what we saw on the Knaus Travelino Skyview Concept, but using liquid crystals in place of suspended particles. The concept van also has a 400-watt solar array and an inductive smartphone charger.

The new Sprinter blossoms into a camper van

Düsseldorf is the world's largest motorhome and caravan trade show, and this will be the first show since the launch of the new Sprinter. So Mercedes will be focusing on the Sprinter's nuts and bolts, along with the new concepts described above. It explains that the new Sprinter has been designed to be more motorhome-friendly than ever before and can be ordered directly from the factory with camper-specific features like swivel driver cab seats and an electric parking brake that replaces the manual lever, freeing easier passthrough from driver cab to motorhome cabin.

Mercedes also offers a 177-hp four-cylinder engine exclusively for camper vans and a new "tractor head" chassis variant that places bulky powertrain and fuel tank components ahead of the B-pillars, opening up more space and flexibility for constructing the living module.

The Hymermobil B-Class ModernComfort is one of the first motorhomes based on the new Mercedes Sprinter
The Hymermobil B-Class ModernComfort is one of the first motorhomes based on the new Mercedes Sprinter

We'll be at the opening day of Düsseldorf on Thursday, and Mercedes-Benz's booth will be among our first stops. We'll also hunt down some of the first new Sprinter-based motorhomes from manufacturers like Hymer and La Strada, bringing you more information and photos.

Source: Daimler

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