This article also appears in
Subscribe now »

Mercedes-Benz details all-new platform for EV vans

Mercedes-Benz reveals its VAN.EA platform, the architecture for all the brand’s future vans.

Mercedes-Benz has revealed its electrification strategy for its commercial and private van lineup. SAE Media was in attendance for the company’s online presentation in May that outlined the plans to electrify all future van offerings. “It is our clear ambition to lead the industry to an all-electric future,” said Mathias Geisen, head of Mercedes‑Benz vans. “Our future is electric only, and our road map to the future is clearly defined.”

The presentation also detailed the company’s overall strategy for carbon neutrality. Mercedes-Benz reportedly aims to achieve carbon neutrality from its van fleet by 2039 and intends to do so over the entire lifecycle of the vehicle. This strategy is aligned with plans for the main light-vehicle lineup, which now is considered part of the same business group.

End of the ICE age
While Mercedes-Benz does not intend to immediately roll up ICE-powered van production, the company’s transition to an EV-only lineup does appear imminent. Mercedes-Benz CFO Mario Pucher stated that the company will reduce investment in ICE vans by 70% by mid-decade and will also condense the diversity of the ICE portfolio.

“Existing ICE models will continue to serve us well beyond the end of the decade, (but) we have to keep them attractive,” said Geisen. “In parallel, we have to ramp up the production of electric vans.” Geisen reiterated that Mercedes-Benz will go through a “substantial complexity reduction of the existing ICE portfolio” and will streamline EV van offerings by utilizing a single platform.

Geisen also explained that while Mercedes-Benz is trimming its lineup, the intention still is to offer a diverse range of products while targeting growth in several customer segments such as the “premium” van market.  “The transition towards electric only is ambitious, as we have to fulfill different customer needs in parallel,” he said.

Geisen hinted at a new V-Class that would break cover later this year featuring fresh sheetmetal, an updated interior and new driver-assistance features. No specific details were given, but Geisen did reinforce that the latest V-Class would be aimed at private buyers and that it would serve Mercedes-Benz’s “premium” segment customers.

Platform with a purpose
Leading the charge for the company’s electric van rollout will be the VAN.EA platform, the company’s newly developed modular and scalable architecture that reportedly will serve as the basis for all future Mercedes-Benz van models. “VAN.EA has been developed from scratch as a purpose-built battery-electric architecture fully utilizing the advantages of the new technology,” said Geisen, adding that “Electrification goes hand-in-hand with simplification.”

The VAN.EA platform will underpin all of Mercedes-Benz’s midsize and large vans, ranging from the electric V-Class to the commercial-focused Sprinters. The company is targeting a 20% market share of the BEV van sector by 2026 and more than 50% share by 2030.

Stefanie Schmitz, strategic project lead, VAN.EA, further detailed the planned launch and design of VAN.EA. “Starting in 2026, all newly developed vans from Mercedes-Benz will be based on a single modular and scalable architecture,” she stressed.

VAN.EA is short for Van, electric architecture. The design of the VAN.EA platform encompasses three modules. “The front module consists of the electric powertrain and front axle. The module is the same in all VAN.EA variants, which is part of our optimized common parts strategy,” said Schmitz. “The differentiation as it relates to the customer takes place in the other two modules. The center module scales the vehicle’s length. This is also where the standardized battery case is placed.”

There will be several variants of batteries available with different capacities depending on customer needs. Schmitz also explained that the rear module will be available in two versions: one with an electric motor for all-wheel drive variants, or without a driven axle for front-wheel drive variants.  “Based on these three modules, VAN.EA allows for clear differentiation between privately and commercially used vans,” she said.

The two main variations of the architecture will be VAN.EA-P, designating a van design intended for private-sector uses such as a camper or other personal-use cases. The VAN.EA-C moniker designates the version that will underpin commercial vans in midsize and large segments. No additional powertrain details were given during the presentation, but Mercedes-Benz did declare a planned range for all versions of more than 500 kilometers (310 miles).

Short circuits
Though Mercedes-Benz’s development of the VAN.EA platform seems to be on track, there have been a few bumps in the road. In September of 2022, it was announced that Rivian had entered a joint development partnership with Mercedes-Benz to produce electric vans in Europe.

The original plan reportedly was that the two companies would build and operate a factory in Europe that produced vans for both brands. The location of the factory was not revealed at the time, though Mercedes-Benz did confirm that it would be in either central or eastern Europe. It also was reported that that the partnership was just a “memorandum of understanding” and was still subject to approval from the EU.

However, in December of that year, news broke that Rivian had backed out of the agreement. "At this point in time, we believe focusing on our consumer business, as well as our existing commercial business, represent the most attractive near-term opportunities to maximize value for Rivian," CEO RJ Scaringe said in a statement. Mercedes-Benz stated that the "ongoing reprioritization" at Rivian was the cause of the deal falling through.

Despite the partnership with Rivian not coming to fruition, Mercedes-Benz pushed on with the development of its own EV van platform and production facility. During the presentation, it was revealed the company had selected a location for a dedicated VAN.EA factory; according to Mercedes-Benz, all VAN.EA-based vehicles will be produced at a new production facility in Jawor, Poland.

Continue reading »
X