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Meet Merc’s drone-port on wheels, the Vision Van

Mercedes shows us the van of the future, with electric drive and drones aplenty

This is the Mercedes Vision Van. No, we haven’t lost the plot and forgotten this website isn’t called Top Courier. Here is a van that might just be interesting to people like us.

Just look at it, for starters. No van that’s ever turned up to fix your plumbing or deliver your latest boxset has looked like this.

The Vision Van is Merc giving commercial vehicles the full concept car glamour treatment, and the result is a mirror-less, handle-less wonder. It would be completely sullied by the rude scrawls of drunk passers-by when the back panel is scruffy. The lack of side-rubbing strips would also make it very vulnerable to scratches on rufty tufty building sites, too.

It’s no surprise to find the Vision comes ram-packed with tech. Its core is electric, a 101bhp electric motor providing drive, with a potential range of around 170 miles. Vans are perhaps more notably improved by electric drive than cars, given their more urgent need to enter low emissions zones of cities.

Getting rid of a traditional engine means the driver can sit further forward, too, freeing up more cargo space behind. The batteries slot neatly below the floor, with the added bonus of likely improvements to unladen handling thanks to a lower centre of gravity. Finally, the ability to operate silently opens up new possibilities for overnight deliveries.

The eagle-eyed will have spotted two drones atop the Vision Van. This is where Merc sees serious gains; they’re not just a piece of concept car whimsy, they’re a sign of the ‘last-mile logistics’ improvements that a host of new tech will serve.

So if a van enters a city and is stymied by traffic in its final approach to a delivery, a drone can take it to its final destination, using the roof to take off from and land upon. The large, lit grille and rear light band will help warn pedestrians that a wee copter is about to take off from the mobile airport that’s just pulled alongside them.

Other tech includes autonomous loading – with the correct parcel deposited neatly through a shute to the driver to alleviate human error – and joystick driving controls, which further neatens up the cabin space to increase practicality elsewhere.

Why Mercedes hasn’t gone the whole hog and shoehorned autonomous tech in we’re not sure, but van drivers are a bunch probably unwilling to throw control over to the algorithms just yet. Even if they have got a couple of drones to play with.  

How soon we’ll see the Vision Van’s tech is not yet known, but the relentless growth of online commerce means more efficient delivery systems are needed sooner rather than later. The styling, meanwhile, could preview elements of the next Mercedes Sprinter, albeit with some proper mirrors and body protection stuck back on. And more realistic panel gaps.

What do you reckon? Can a couple of quadcopters and some robot-carrying potential make you interested in vans?

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