In the U.S., electric-car advocates and green energy fans have been dealt some setbacks during recent weeks. In Europe, however, the push toward electrification remains as strong--and trendy--as ever.
Delivering on zero emissions
In Germany, courier service Hermes (not to be confused with French luxury goods retailer, Hermès) is going electric with a little help from Mercedes-Benz. The process begins next year with a pilot program in Stuttgart and Hermes' hometown, Hamburg.
During the pilot, Hermes and Mercedes-Benz will collaborate to find the most efficient, emissions-free means of delivering packages in the "last mile" (that is, the period of transit from a service hub to a final destination). By 2020, Hermes expects to operate a fleet of 1,500 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Vito vans throughout Germany.
Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell
Why the big push? It's largely rooted in the explosion of e-commerce, which has resulted in an increased demand for parcel deliveries.
While some retailers and couriers hope to meet those demands by bypassing roads altogether, Hermes is working to make sure that its urban fleets are entirely zero-emissions by the year 2025.
(Given the critical eye with which many city governments are eyeing diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles, the company may be onto something.)
But the partnership isn't at all one-sided. Mercedes-Benz will use Hermes' fleet to perfect some of its own technologies. In particular, the partnership will further its "adVANce" initiative, which focuses on making logistics systems more efficient, from the scheduling of deliveries, routing of vehicles, and even the loading of parcels.
As such, Hermes' fleet will be a proving ground for some of Mercedes-Benz's latest connected-car tech.
Harrods department store in London, by Flickr user OliverN5
Electric luxury lorries
Several hundred miles to the west, the posh British department store, Harrods, is making a similar move--though it's not quite as grand.
This week, Harrods took delivery of a Nissan e-NV200, the all-electric twin of the company's popular van. As you can see in the video above, it's been customized in green and gold to match Harrods' other delivery vehicles. Under the hood, however, the e-NV200 is very different, sporting the same 24 kWh lithium-ion battery as its sibling, the Nissan Leaf.
The e-NV200 has a range of 106 miles on the European cycle. Harrods says it expects its new van will put an average of 150 miles on the odometer every week, meaning the company will have to recharge it once or twice a week at most.
Though Harrods' electrification plans aren't as bold as those of Hermes, the store does have a long history with electric vehicles.
That history began more than a century ago with a small delivery fleet consisting of American Walker electric vans. Eventually, Harrods custom-built 60 electric vehicles of its own, though they were gradually retired decades ago as gas-powered vans became more popular.
Want to see the Nissan e-NV200 in action? Check out the clip above, which offers a few glimpses of the van's custom interior.