The future of mobility (2/2) – cityscape and quality of life.

A highway junction at night with a city in the background

MYVAN presenter Christopher Wallenreiter traveled to Cologne to find out how mobility change can influence the cityscape and the quality of life.

Will modern means of transport change the cityscape?

Traffic congestion in big cities is one of the major challenges of our time. In the first part of our series of articles on The Future of Transportation World Conference in Cologne, we dealt with the topic of how individual mobility in cities could be shaped in the future. The question now is to what extent new transport systems and means of transport will change the cityscape and what this implies for the quality of life there. MYVAN presenter Christopher Wallenreiter talked to mobility experts Claudius Schaufler and Wouter Haspeslagh to get to the bottom of this question.

A highway at night surrounded by skyscrapers

The need for mobility is greater than ever, even among older sections of the population.

Portrait of Claudius Schaufler

Claudius Schaufler from the Fraunhofer Institute.

Technology isn’t everything – the application counts.

Claudius Schaufler is a research representative at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart and deals, among other things, with the effects of autonomous vehicles on the infrastructure in cities. “The technology of autonomous driving will not change the quality of life in cities for the time being. It depends much more on how it is implemented,” he explains. And in his opinion there is no future-proof master plan for this. The economy only concentrates on purely technical issues, such as how an autopilot can be better programmed or an electric vehicle can be driven longer distances. But technology alone is not the solution, Claudius makes us aware. Instead, a public debate must finally be launched in which various interest groups can discuss the sustainable use of these new means of transport in equal measure.

Quality of life consists of social exchange.

But what makes the quality of life in a city? This is a question that everyone has to answer for themselves. For Claudius, social interaction plays a particularly important role: “If we create spaces in which people like to spend time and exchange ideas, then both the quality of life and the potential for economic innovation are much higher,” says Claudius.

But this is easier said than done in view of the fact that lack of space in cities is the order of the day – not least because of asphalted roads and parking lots. As described in the previous article, the concept of “mobility as a service” offers the potential to reduce traffic to a minimum and avoid unnecessary downtimes of vehicles. But how can more space be gained from this?

The technology of autonomous driving will not change the quality of life in cities for the time being. It depends much more on how it is implemented.
Portrait of Wouter Haspeslagh

Wouter Haspeslagh from Granstudio.

Parking is outdated.

Wouter Haspeslagh is a researcher at the Vehicle and Mobility Design Office Granstudio in Turin, Italy. He believes, for example, that driving bans in cities, which are already being applied with the Euro standard, are not a long-term solution.

Instead, he and his team are looking for ideas to enable an effective coexistence of cars and other mobility infrastructures in cities. If it were possible to reduce the downtimes of cars through networked and autonomous driving assistants, inner-city parking areas would gradually lose their purpose. Some of them would then become transit areas in which you would only change from one vehicle to the next in a flowing process. The other part could be rebuilt.

Tomatoes from the roof of the house.

For example, cafés and public spaces could fill these emerging gaps to create more spaces where people can come together. Claudius also has other ideas, such as “decentralized production”. This means that the city of the future no longer has to be classically divided into production areas such as industrial estates and residential areas. Instead, the resources needed in each case could be produced in the same district or even residential complex. Of particular interest here is the space-saving concept of vertical farms, where, for example, house roofs are used for agricultural purposes.

Close-up of a tomato bush

In principle, agriculture can also take place on high-rise buildings.

3D printer around the corner.

Alternatively, areas freed up could be converted into small production facilities, for example for 3D printing, by means of mobile production units. Just as you can take a shirt for cleaning, you could go around the corner to print a 3D part. This would be a plus in flexibility, especially for start-ups. One thing is certain: Whether opportunities or challenges, the future of mobility has a lot to offer. However, the right path can and should be taken today.

3 most important lessons learned on how to make a contribution to the future of mobility:

  1. Is it really necessary to travel to a specific place? This question should be asked before every trip. With Skype, digital ID cards & Co. it is now possible to carry out everyday tasks such as business meetings, dealing with the authorities or banking business independently of your own location. Of course, interpersonal encounters such as a visit to your grandmother cannot be replaced.
  2. Sharing is caring: Driving around alone is not sustainable. Instead, you should use apps such as “BlaBlaCar” to arrange car pools or use car sharing and public transport.
  3. Have the courage to change: Everyone is skeptical at the beginning. However, if you accept new technologies such as autonomous driving and are prepared to change your behavior for the benefit of all, then we can look to the future of mobility with confidence.

Detail of a stand with The Future of Transportation World Conference logo with blurred entrance hall in the background

We leave The Future of Transportation World Conference with exciting impressions.

Photos: Dennis Blass; granstudio.com; Fraunhofer IAO; burst.shopify.com

More Links to explore: thefutureoftransportconference.com

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
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An L 309 D named “Mr. White”.

A Mercedes-Benz L 309 D is driving along a mountain road

With his Ace Cafe Luzern in Rothenburg, Dany Kunz has created a paradise for motor enthusiasts and music fans. He uses his van whenever he wants to spend time in the countryside to recover from the demanding event business.

“Grüezi” from the Engadine.

A place somewhere in the Engadine at daybreak – far away from the city and from any road. Nature is still allowed to flourish here: Densely wooded slopes open out into crystal-clear mountain lakes. In the middle of the high valley, between craggy peaks and gently rolling alpine pastures, Dany opens the sliding door of his snow-white Mercedes-Benz L 309 D. The aroma of freshly-brewed coffee wafts over to him. His dog leaps out of the van and stretches in all directions. Dany makes himself comfortable on the stairs and looks off into the distance. “I often go hiking, but I also enjoy reading beneath the awning, accompanied by good music, or working on my laptop,” the Swiss relates.

  • The Mercedes-Benz L 309 D is driving along a wooded mountain pass
  • View of the van, with Dany, his motorbike and a campfire in the foreground
  • The Mercedes-Benz L 309 D in the midst a forest, seen from a bird’s eye view
  • “Mr. White” is parked in front of a snow-covered mountain with a near-by lake

Starting one’s own business.

The 35-year old Swiss grew up in a small village in the hinterland of Luzern. After completion of his vocational training as a mediamatician, he spent a year in Australia. While exploring the west coast of “down under”, he discovered his liking for travelling in the camper van. Upon his return, he started a career in the marketing sector. His unfailing creative urge and the desire to put his own ideas into practice finally induced him to start his own business. But how did the “Ace Cafe Luzern” come about? When visiting the original Ace Cafe in London for the first time, he asked himself why such a place did not exist in Switzerland. “That was a powerful incentive to put all my eggs in one basket.”

Two children are taking a ride in a in miniature vintage car in front of the Ace Cafe Luzern

With his Ace Café, Dany has created a meeting place for small and big car fans.

Motorbikes, cars and a great deal of rock’n’roll.

In Dany’s Ace Cafe Luzern in Rothenburg, Harley riders are sitting side by side with fans of American classic cars and sports cars. The vehicles could not be more different – but their owners share the same passion. “What counts is the spirit”, says the Swiss. 130 events related to the subject of “motor enthusiasm” are organized in the pub every year. Van friends also get their money’s worth: “We offer a camper and caravan meeting, a ‘van and büssli (bus) meeting’ and even a meeting for expedition vehicles!” At these meetings, you will encounter kindred spirits and get a chance to share your ideas on the refinishing of a van’s interior or your next trip.

“Being in the Ace Cafe means to celebrate freedom.”
The Mercedes-Benz L 309 D stands in front of the Ace Cafe Lucerne

Van enthusiasts come together at the “Van & Büssli Meet” at Ace Cafe Lucerne.

On tour with the L 309 D.

At the time, Dany’s forthcoming journey to Scandinavia motivated him to purchase a van. “At first, I was thinking only about the journey, then the idea with the van arose,” he tells us. As far as the model was concerned, there was only one possible option for the car lover: “It was important to me to have an L 309 D from Mercedes-Benz as it was ideally suited for my project.” A young couple had the right one for him, even though they had done very little work on their van. Does he know anything about the history of his van? “We assume that the L 309 D with 4×4 drive was used by the military and afterwards by a painting contractor for whom, judging from the old photos, it was a capable workhorse.”

Dany is sitting at the table inside his wood-panelled van

Dany himself made a draft for the conversion of his van, but he sought help for its implementation and supported actively.

The conversion is realized by a pro.

For the conversion of his L 309 D, Dany sought professional support: “I often went to the workshops because I was so anxious to see the work progress.” Bevor the vehicle could be insulated, it had to be sealed and be freed from rust. In the meantime, he jotted down his “must-haves” and made a draft for the conversion. The claim to be self-sufficient was particularly important to Dany. Therefore, a large solar panel and sufficient batteries were included in the budget. “In my job, I can do 50 per cent of the work with just a laptop and a phone. In other words, I can be a digital nomad if I want to.” When it came to the interior finishing work, he was the carpenter’s handyman. Dany’s primary focus was creating a warm ambiance with a lot of wood. “Mr. White’s interior now looks like a small flat in the bow of an old boat.” The materials used are remnants of times gone by, whereas Dany purchased the small things from flea markets in London. “There are many small objects in the vehicle which reflect my personality.”

Dany’s ultimate tips for van conversions:

  1. Allow sufficient time. If you are planning to do the conversion within a period of six months, you should give it a year instead. There will be many unforeseen difficulties that are likely to cause distress.
  2. As far as the budget goes, the situation is similar: Generally, the conversion ends up being more expensive than expected!
  3. And last, but not least: Convert the van in such a way that it is suitable for the journeys you are planning to undertake. It is no use building an “off-road monster” if you are driving on tarmac all the time. I wanted to get out into the countryside, that’s why a 4-wheel drive, a rope winch and a raised suspension were important to me.

Expeditions into minimalism.

In order to recover from his labour-intensive everyday life, the Swiss regularly escapes into nature. Here he finds peace and the drive to start new projects. Adapting to the conditions of nature and adjusting his needs to it – this is something that grounds him. “Perhaps it is this minimalism which is close to my heart and which I live intensively when I am travelling. Making do with few resources while having everything with you that you really need,” he explains. On his first journey, Dany travelled via Denmark all the way up to the Lofoten Islands in Norway, the “European Maldives”. Then he returned home via Finland, Lapland and Sweden. A few weeks ago, this was followed by a second journey with “Mr. White”: For a week, he explored the idyllic Engadine. He says that “Mr. White” is like a buddy with whom he has the chance to discover various parts of the world. “With this kind of mini expedition vehicle, I can go to all those places where all the boring motorhomes cannot go,” he adds with a smile.

At the end of the day, the van has become ‘mine’ und it meets my needs perfectly.
Dany is standing on a stony hill next to his dog looking over the Norwegian fjords

Pure nature: With his journeys into the wilderness, Dany wants to broaden his horizon.

Dany is lying face down in the bed of his Mercedes-Benz L 309 D looking out through the opened tailgates

A tiny house on wheels: Its separate interior gives the van the appearance of a small hut.

A Mercedes-Benz L 309 D with the inscription “Mr. White” is parked on the beach

For Dany, “Mr. White” is the perfect travel companion.

The Mercedes-Benz L 309 D is parked next to a herd of cows in the mountains

Dany purchased the hydraulic rear carrier for his motorbike from a German company.

Dany is sitting around a campfire in front of his van

An extended hike in the mountains is followed by a relaxed evening around the campfire.

The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.

Photos: Dany Kunz

More Links to explore: acecafeluzern.ch – @Instagram, @Facebook

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
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Tradition meets passion: A mobile farrier from the Gironde.

Wolfgang Albert stands in front of his Vito with horseboxes in the background

For Wolfgang Albert, the happiness of this earth lies under the hooves of horses: In the picturesque Gironde he practices the traditional craft of blacksmithing.

Farrier: A special craft.

It’s early in the morning in the southwest of France. In a small village in the hinterland of Bordeaux, the first rays of sunshine flash through the lush green of the trees. Wolfgang Albert is at home here. He is already on his feet – he has a long day ahead of him. Concentrated, he puts hammers, nails, files, pliers and, last but not least, a heavy leather apron in the trunk of his Mercedes-Benz Vito. The 46-year-old has found his calling in a traditional craft: He is a blacksmith. “The beauty of my job is being outside all the time,” he enthuses, while a satisfied smile spreads over his face. Wolfgang makes his way to one of his customers. Shortly afterwards, his Vito meanders through the idyllic landscape of the Gironde.

Wolfgang feeds a horse a carrot in the stable

The deep familiarity between Wolfgang and his four-legged “customers” is always present.

From horse lover to blacksmith.

But how do you become a blacksmith? Wolfgang never wanted to do anything other than work with horses. His heart has always beaten for the noble four-legged friends: He spent every free minute of his young life at a riding stable and took part in tournaments. At the age of 16 he began his training as a blacksmith. Subsequently, he completed his military service on a horse farm. Afterwards he could finally do what he had been working towards all this time: He started his own business as a blacksmith. Wolfgang has been practicing this profession with dedication, empathy and sure instinct for 25 years now. He has the gift to understand the behavior and body language of the gentle four-legged friends. “When working with horses you must have a passion,” the horse whisperer explains.

The machine will never be able to replace a human being in this profession.
  • Wolfgang strokes a horse on a pasture
  • Wolfgang's Vito drives along a country road
  • The Vito is parked on the side of an entrance leading to a horse paddock
  • Wolfgang holds a horse on a pasture by the bridle

Custom-made “shoes” for hoofed animals.

Arriving at the farm Wolfgang strolls past numerous horse stalls. His “customer base” consists of about 200 hoofed animals, which he takes care of at regular intervals. The shoe has to be replaced every six to eight weeks. “For horses, horseshoes are like shoes that protect them from foot injuries,” he explains and continues: “The farrier’s responsibility is to ensure that the animal feels comfortable in its ‘shoes’ so that it can exercise and train its sport.”

Horses are not used to being shod, so you have to teach them first. Every farrier gets a kick or the horses stand on your feet, said Wolfgang. His secret recipe for dealing with animals? “If you are relaxed, caress them and give them a carrot from time to time, it helps to lighten the mood,” he answers with a smile. The horses feel it when someone next to them is nervous or tense.

Timeless craftsmanship instead of old iron.

“When I shoed a horse for the first time, I was incredibly proud – even though the result wasn’t quite perfect,” recalls Wolfgang. His training had a strong influence on him: He learned from an elderly farrier who still practiced the profession in the original way. Tradition is very important in this 2,000 year old craft. For hundreds of years, the technique of fitting has remained almost the same. His teacher taught Wolfgang a lot about the craft – for example that the attitude towards the animals is very important. Now he passes on his expertise to the younger generation by regularly training future blacksmiths. In this way, he preserves the tradition of the increasingly rare craft trade.

In 6 steps to a tailor-made horseshoe:

  1. Watching the horse running and observing its balance gives the farrier a lot of information about how to shoe it.
  2. Preparation of the hoof: The next step is to remove the horseshoe. The old horn, which has grown since the last shoeing, is also removed and the hoof is filed.
  3. Hot shoe: The new iron is heated in the oven and shaped on the anvil. The hotter it is, the easier it is to work.
  4. Then the iron is cooled. Optionally, an iron thread can be added to prevent it from falling off again quickly in the following period.
  5. Finally, the horseshoe is fixed to the hoof with nails. For a clean finish, the protruding ends of the nails are cut off with the fitting pliers.
  6. In the last step, the farrier lifts the horse’s leg and checks whether the iron is correctly seated or whether corrections may need to be made.

Wolfgang removes an old horseshoe from a horse

Before the hoof can be shoed again, the old iron must first be removed.

The horseshoe is machined with spraying sparks

Working with hot and sharp tools that can easily injure you is part of everyday life for farriers.

Wolfgang works the glowing iron with a hammer

On the anvil, the glowing iron is shaped with precise hammer blows.

Wolfgang holds the steaming iron on the hoof of a horse

With the method known as “hot shoe”, the iron is placed on the hoof when heated.

The horseshoe is cooled in a bucket and steams

The horseshoe is then cooled.

Protruding nails on the horse's hoof are clipped with pliers

After nailing, protruding nails are cut off with pliers.

Always ready for action: The mobile workshop in the Vito.

In the past, horses used to come to the blacksmith’s, but today it’s the other way round: Wolfgang’s working range is around 200 kilometers. That’s why the Frenchman travels a lot in his Mercedes-Benz Vito, which he converted into a mobile workshop. For the blacksmith, the Vito is like a workshop on wheels – where he has all the tools he needs for his trade at his fingertips. “Inside, everything is arranged so that I can work close to the vehicle and don’t have to remove the tools,” explains Wolfgang, while he supplies a horse with new iron. In between he whispers reassuring words to the animal. Every move he makes relaxes the horse – the process of shoeing resembles a rehearsed choreography. Just like his daily routine. Every morning he prepares the van for the next assignment: “I remove the cut-off irons from the previous day, put in a supply of new horseshoes and grind my tools before I go to work.”

I travel a great many kilometers every day, so I need a vehicle I can rely on.
A horse looks out of a horse box

Good powers of observation and empathy are essential when working with the gentle mounts.

Photos: Nadine Laux

Vito

The Vito helps you get ahead – both out on the road and in your business. Its cost-effectiveness and quality are as exemplary as its versatility and safety.

Mercedes-Benz Vito
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Moving into a Sprinter: from businessman to KiteVanMan.

A man, a woman, two dogs and a Sprinter

Alex had put all his energy into his career for a long time. Then he took a bold step together with his girlfriend: they moved into their Sprinter – and are now touring Europe.

Christmas Eve changed everything.

They had everything a modern person needs to live: a beautiful home, a successful career with a full schedule and of course themselves. Yet, Marcela and Alex say today, they had one thing missing: balance. The first doubts were sown when the two pondered over their everyday lives on Christmas Eve 2016. Is this the life we want to lead? Is there perhaps something more out there? Have we remained true to ourselves?

Two dogs romp around in front of a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

“I always wanted to have dogs, but my work never allowed it,” says Alex. Then he moved into his Sprinter and got two four-legged friends.

From businessman to hippie.

For Marcela and Alex it was a moment of enlightenment: “I realized that I had wasted too much time on things I didn’t really want to do,” the Welshman recalls. “I had a job that swallowed up all my time and dreamt too often of so many things I always wanted to do, but never found the time for.” A short conversation, a symbolic handshake and the plan was set. Marcela and Alex gave up their jobs, their apartment and went looking for a van. They left Great Britain and their previous lives behind them. From a businessman to a hippie, as Alex says and grins. “The time was right,” said the Welshman. “I knew that if I didn’t change things now, I’d regret it ten years from now.”

Alex and Marcela swap their office for a van.

For 15 months now, the couple has been touring Europe with their two dogs and their Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. They blog and vlog about their vanlife on their blog “KiteVanMan”. Today they live a self-determined lifestyle that they always wanted to lead: off the career ladder, far away from routine, in their white van with the star that Marcela and Alex affectionately call “Joyce”.

Now an “ordinary” morning in the young couple’s life looks like this: waking up at sunrise, then a little jogging round with the dogs and then breakfast near the sea. “After that we visit the area or drive on – and the rest of the day it’s work.” In other words: Alex takes care of photos and video contributions for the vlog, works on the van, or even teaches kitesurfing – and Marcela creates new vegan recipes, which she also publishes online.

The Sprinter simply offers the perfect conditions for life in a van. It’s also very reliable and robust.
A white Sprinter from Mercedes-Benz parked on a road, with a bridge in the background

Marcela and Alex have been travelling through Europe for over 15 months – always on the lookout for the most beautiful spots on the continent.

Freedom? To do what you want – when you want.

For Marcela and Alex, a life without a fixed location, even an everyday life as a vagabond, doesn’t just mean lying around, and hanging out, but instead “We have left all our constraints and obligations behind us and are now free,” says Alex. “For me, freedom means doing what I want and, above all, when I want.” He lists: snowboarding, meeting friends, laughing, loving, running, riding, eating, drinking, dancing, making bonfires on the beach, sleeping and relaxing. And above all: kitesurfing. “The feeling of using the energy of the wind to ride the waves is simply indescribable,” says Alex.

A man kitesurfing on a lake

Alex loves kitesurfing. “I can really relax”. A friend introduced him to it, today he works as a trainer.

Cockpit of a Sprinter at sunrise

A typical day starts around six in the morning. Alex describes it as epic to enjoy his coffee at sunrise.

A woman with a dog on her lap sits in the cockpit of a Sprinter, parked at the coast.

Marcela and Alex manage the successful blog and vlog “Kitevanman”. Marcela shows, among other things, how delicious vegan dishes can be cooked in a van.

The Sprinter named “Joyce” makes it possible.

A life reduced to the bare necessities – and to the essentials. Also with enough comfort? “Absolutely,” answers Alex. Their Sprinter 313 LWB, built in 2010, offers them everything they need to live. “It wasn’t easy to find the right vehicle for our needs,” says Alex. Then they found “Joyce”. After a ten-minute test drive they fell in love. “The Sprinter simply offers the perfect conditions for life in a van. It’s also very reliable and robust.”

Alex publishes eBook about “Van Conversions”.

The two worked together on their vehicle for three months and over 500 hours and they converted their Sprinter just the way they wanted it: with solar systems, a unique shower, practical storage solutions, and so on. Of course, Alex always had the camera at hand during this time. One of his many van conversion videos has almost five million clicks on YouTube to date. The community was thrilled. Marcela and Alex were overwhelmed with compliments – and with numerous questions from DIY lovers. Therefore, Alex decided to publish an eBook with his best tips for converting a Sprinter into a vagabond van. “I wasn’t the best student before,” Alex says, laughing, adding, “My teachers might be shocked to hear that I’ve now published a book.”

A white Sprinter parked in front of a stone wall on a hill

Marcela and Alex spent over 500 working hours and many long nights converting their Sprinter.

No regrets moving into the van.

But that’s what makes such a step so attractive: when you leave everything behind you, a lot of weight falls from your shoulders and you realize, how little you need for a happy life. That’s one side. The other: “You are confronted with new, unfamiliar situations and challenges every day and you grow with them.” An escape from routine, then. “I love our simple life in the van. It was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.”

  • A white Sprinter parked at a lake, in the foreground a field and a dog
  • A Sprinter in a snowy landscape from the inside
  • Sprinter's bed, a landscape in the background
  • A woman exercises in front of her Sprinter

The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
Slider images

The future of mobility (1/2) – individual mobility in the city.

A bird's eye view of a motorway junction in Shanghai

MYVAN presenter Christopher Wallenreiter traveled to Cologne to find out how traffic congestion in large cities could be counteracted in the future.

Through the city at six kilometers per hour.

Noise, stress and air pollution – these buzzwords have long been associated with most of the world’s cities. Because they all have one thing in common – the problem of traffic congestion. In Mexico City, for example, a car travels at an average speed of six kilometers per hour. Progress is different, you might think. With all this, you have to ask – how can individual mobility still function in big cities in the future? How is the quality of life there changing? Moreover, what role will autonomous means of transport play in all this? MYVAN presenter Christopher Wallenreiter traveled to Cologne to The Future of Transportation World Conference to find answers to these questions. In an interview with four mobility experts from science and the field, Christopher tries to get to the bottom of the future of mobility.

Escalators in the conference building of the exhibition center in Cologne

In times of accelerating processes, it is all the more important to critically question one’s own actions.

Portrait photo of Ralf Frisch from the PTV Group

Ralf Frisch from the PTV Group.

Tailor-made mobility as a service.

Car sharing is no longer a strange word and has been used in city centers for some time via providers such as car2go. From the expert’s point of view, the sharing of vehicles is one of the important key ideas for making mobility even more efficiently available where it is needed individually in the future. The keyword here is “Mobility as a Service” or MaaS for short.

Ralf Frisch is Solution Director for MaaS at the PTV Group in Karlsruhe. “MaaS is about creating a clever combination of different types of transport systems,” he explains. In practical terms, this could mean that users now only have one ticket for all means of transport, from rental bicycles to car sharing to the metro, etc. Databased planning software, such as the PTV Group’s, can in turn calculate the fastest route for you.

A solution is often closer than expected.

Data and networking are half the battle. On the other hand, innovations are needed that make efficient use of both. Uber and Lyft, for example, managed to turn the mobility market upside down within a very short time by cleverly linking existing smartphone technology with a number of driving service providers in major cities. Other successful examples of on-demand mobility services are ViaVan and moovel. Transporting people to similar destinations makes it not only more flexible, but also cheaper.

A woman with a smartphone in her hand is standing in front of a Mercedes-Benz van with a ViaVan label

With ViaVan you can reach your destination quickly and cheaply.

Autonomous vehicles could improve the traffic situation.

Nevertheless, most discussions about the future of mobility revolve around autonomous driving, which has recently been approved. Here, too, the question can be asked – to what extent do self-driving cars provide increased benefit on congested roads? After all, they cannot fly like the “Volocopter” yet. “The problem is not only too many vehicles, but also how inefficiently we use them,” Frisch begins to explain. “When you drive to work in the morning and park your car outside the office until the end of the day, it doesn’t bring any real benefit during this time.” In the meantime, sharing systems could allow an autonomous, networked vehicle to drive to other passengers to transport them to their destination.

The problem is not only too many vehicles, but also how inefficiently we use them.

Sharing is caring – also in road traffic.

In rush hour traffic you often see that people in large vehicles driving to work alone. Where is the sustainability in that? “If the masses used a common pool of autonomous vehicles communicating with each other, the total number of vehicles could be reduced to a tradable minimum,” Frisch sums up. Conversely, this would also require the willingness to leave your car in the garage.

Three smarts with the car2go logo on the bonnet

The car2go car-sharing offer already provides the right approach.

Portrait photo of Prof. Dr. Jelte Bos from TNO

Prof. Dr. Jelte Bos from TNO.

Even an autopilot has to drive with composure.

Prof. Dr. Jelte Bos of the Dutch research organization TNO takes a different view of autonomous driving. “Mobility in general is marketed today as a pleasure of life,” he explains to us. This also means that driving comfort in a self-driving car must be in no way inferior to that of a conventional car. This is primarily for the prevention of travel sickness, in which the professor specializes.

In fact, nausea while travelling at sea, by plane or in a car is a widespread phenomenon in society. However, if you are at the wheel yourself, you are usually not affected. This raises the question: How can travel sickness in driverless cars be counteracted? “Above all, an autonomous driving pilot must be able to brake and accelerate in a controlled manner,” says the researcher.

Sustainable mobility is everyone’s responsibility.

Instead of just looking at the constantly growing mobility possibilities and enjoying them to the full, Prof. Dr. Jelte Bos advises us to ask ourselves once again before each journey: Is it really necessary to travel to place X? Isn’t Skype enough? Otherwise, experts agree that our transport system will collapse in a few years’ time.

The Volocopter is on display in an exhibition room

The "Volocopter" was also a must at this conference.

A hand on a Mercedes-Benz steering wheel

Driving alone is no longer sustainable these days.

Photos: Dennis Blass; Netherlands Organisation for Applied Sciences; PTV Group; Denys Nevozhai; epicantus

More Links to explore: thefutureoftransportconference.com

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
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Culinary delicacies from a classic: the 5 most beautiful food trucks.

The Masala73 driving along a street in Barcelona

Fiery BBQ, spicy from the Far East or freshly brewed: the various stories of the founders of these five food trucks are united by their love for their vintage van and their passion for culinary delicacies.

North Sea fish specialities to take away.

Jan Kegel not only knows how to get plenty of fish into his net, he also knows how to turn old Mercedes-Benz vans into smart seafood trucks. Near the port on the Belgian North Sea coast, the experienced caterer prepares fresh fish specialities in his two Mercedes-Benz 508 D model series vans – from the sea, straight to the plate. The two vehicles, built in 1985 and 1987, come from the stocks of the Dutch and German armies. The Mercedes-Benz 508 D used to serve as an ambulance. Today the inscription “Jean sur Mer” is emblazoned on the beautiful vans and an enticing smell of baked seafood and spices rises from the nautically painted vehicles. After more than 30 years, they now form the basis for Jan’s catering start-up on eight wheels.

Indian flavors meet Catalan cuisine.

Polarizing, multicultural, enchanting: India is the land of culinary and social contrasts. The fascinating sides of Southeast Asia have already captivated some – including Jordi Aros. After a trip to India, the native Catalan and passionate cook decided to share his newly discovered passion for Indian recipes with other people on the streets of Barcelona. If you visit Jordi in his food truck “Masala73”, a Mercedes-Benz 406 D from 1973, you not only go on a journey through time, but also immerse yourself in the world of flavors from Southeast Asia. Only exquisite and selected ingredients are used in “Masala73”. Authentic and well thought-out are not only the Catalan-Indian dishes, but also the green-yellow paint of the body in Lowbrow Art style – a Mercedes-Benz classic van with a Spanish-Far Eastern temperament.

Proud Jordi Aros in front of his Indian food truck

“Masala73” immerses customers in the world of Southeast Asia.

Lobsters, shrimps and steaks from a vintage van.

Take three Dutchmen, a former police van, fiery spices and a barbecue: the surf and turf delicacies from Smokin’ Roaster impress with their top product quality. The crew is passionate about festival life in their Mercedes-Benz L 406 D Food Truck. Smokin’ Roasters inspire their customers with a great deal of attention to detail in the preparation of their food – but the puristically designed classic in richly shining black with wooden trim also remains in the customer’s memory. “There are many trucks, but they don’t have this look,” explain the initiators. The design of the vehicle reflects the mentality of the “Smokin’ Roaster” team: simply tough.

A Portuguese declaration of love of the black gold.

No smell in the world can compare with the aroma of freshly roasted coffee. Roasting is a craft, lovingly brewed coffee specialities are a rarity. When Francisco, Gonçalo and João light up the eyes of their customers with their black pick-me-up creations, it brings a smile to their faces. The mobile café in the heart of Portugal is a true rarity: the Mercedes-Benz N 1300 is one of the rarest vans in the world and has been converted by the young men with a great deal of dedication and craftsmanship. A special highlight of the vehicle is the legendary OM 615 diesel engine – just as extraordinary as the selected coffee beans from “Combi Coffee”. Here, exquisite taste and exclusive mechanics go hand in hand.

A lively Brit conquers Bristol.

Ewan Murray and Thecla May took the plunge into self-employment – via eBay. What may at first sound curious has become an absolute success: the British culinary artists of “Murray May’s” are hard to miss on the streets of Bristol. The bright turquoise body of the food truck glows in the rainy alleys of the English coastal city. The two young founders discovered the former Dutch military vehicle, a Mercedes-Benz 508 D, on eBay, and redesigned it. On the grill, “Murray May’s” combines seasonal British products with Eastern spices, aromas and scents. “We wanted a vehicle with character that suits us and our food,” says Ewan. Bull’s-eye!

The fiery specialities of “Murray May's”.

All kinds of ingredients are prepared in the “Masala73” truck.

With a lot of love and passion “Masala73” conjures up Indian delicacies.

Fresh fried fish in a basket

It could not be fresher: fish delicacies from “Jean sur Mer” to go.

Photos: Felix Schwarz, Damaris Riedinger, Ewan Murray & Thecla May

More Links to explore: Jean sur Mer, Masala73, Combi CoffeeMurray May’s

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
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Vanlife with panoramic view: in a Sprinter across Europe.

The burgundy red Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in front of a mountainscape

Julia and Tommy have found a second home alongside their home in Sweden: their Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the spectacular natural scenery of the Alps.

The perfect life: the Sprinter and the mountains.

What Julia and Tommy like most about their vanlife: “Every time we see the mountains, we feel small.” The photographer and her boyfriend, a journalist, are particularly taken with the Alps. “I know it sounds kitschy, but when we stand on top of a mountain, everything around us is so quiet and beautiful. In this moment only nature matters.” In 2017, the two 26-year-olds from Sweden spent nine months in their Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. On board are their dogs Tok and Elvis, a Shetland sheep dog and an Australian Kelpie. After stations in the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain, the French Alps followed as the crowning finale. They spent four months in the mountains – skiing, hiking, doing odd jobs and simply relaxing.

  • Julia with Elvis on a hiking tour
  • Julia with her dogs in the Sprinter
  • Tommy and Shetland sheepdog Tok
  • Mountain panorama at night

It all began with a camping trip through northern Europe.

Their desire to travel was aroused on a camping trip two years ago. After a semester abroad in Ireland, they drove through various countries in Northern Europe. First with a tent and Julia’s car. After a while, they had the idea that a trip with a bigger car could be much more comfortable. That it was to be a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter was not immediately planned: “We looked on the web for a van that had already been converted, and then our burgundy red Mercedes-Benz 316 appeared as the very first in the search.” Looking back, it was a happy coincidence: “Throughout the trip, we noticed how tough and efficient our Sprinter was.”

You travel, but are always at home.

Explore Eastern Europe with Tok and Elvis.

Back in Sweden, Julia and Tommy planned their next trip – a tour through Eastern Europe: “We are really looking forward to countries like Poland, Slovakia or Romania. Because we are hoping to experience something very special. Not the typical European destinations, which are all a bit alike.” The destination for the two ski fans in the winter months: the Alps, this time the Italian Alps. In terms of travel comfort, there is another upgrade: with a part of their budget, they are redesigning the interior of the Sprinter. Among other things with a larger bench seat and built-in shower – which Julia is especially looking forward to on cold days.

“We hope to experience something very special.”

Profile

Model

Mercedes-Benz 316 CDI Automatic

Height

2.80 m

Length

5.75 m

Width

1.94 m

Mileage

234,079 km

Total weight

2,730 kg

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There are still so many places to discover.

What do you like most about vanlife? “It’s exciting that you never know exactly what’s going to happen next. On the other hand, we feel very safe in our van. You travel, but are always at home,” Julia explains. They also share their experiences since the last trip with friends and followers on their Instagram channel “theonewiththevan”, which will also be equipped with panoramic motifs in the future: “We definitely want to see more ski resorts next in the USA and Canada.” It’s their dream to one day own a country house in Sweden with lots of animals. But until then there are still many fascinating mountain landscapes waiting to be discovered with the Sprinter.

Julia in front of the converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Besides hiking, Julia and Tommy have a great passion for skiing.

Camping stop in the French Alps

This is how deceleration works: A cozy lunch break on a mountain slope.

The dogs Elvis and Tok in front of the Sprinter

A well-earned break: Australian Kelpie Elvis (front) and Shetland sheepdog Tok.

Julia taking a morning shower

Sunbathing with the solar-powered shower.

Tommy reading in the van

Pure deceleration with a view of the mountains.

The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
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MBAC in the Sprinter: the “Connected Home” revolutionizes travel.

The MBAC interface module from Mercedes-Benz Vans makes it easy to relax in the Sprinter. One click is all it takes to check the water level or dim the light.

Networked home on four wheels: a van with style and brains.

The new Sprinter generation is already being delivered and the first models can be seen on the road. From 2019, the most modern Sprinter will be extended by an innovative body control system: the “Mercedes-Benz Advanced Control” (MBAC) interface module offers solutions based on the “Sprinter Connected Home” principle. Virtually all applications that would otherwise be difficult or laborious to operate with muscle power can be controlled conveniently with a single click. Status checks are carried out via the MBUX multimedia system, the freely placeable surface-mounted display or the smartphone or tablet app. The traveler of the future can therefore lean back and relax. From the awning, lighting and sound system to the refrigerator, the motorhome can be controlled via the interface.

A man and a woman support their awning, a Sprinter in the background

If the awning is extended by MBAC, it only needs to be supported.

Smart camping: control of all central functions.

The MBAC will remind science fiction fans in particular of an intelligent and foresighted spaceship control system. If you want to play captain, you do not need a crew, just need a tablet. A 3D model of the vehicle is displayed in the app or on the superstructure display. This makes it easy to check whether a window, a door or a flap is open. These can be remotely unlocked or locked. When it comes to sun protection, the MBAC no longer requires any tiresome cranking: the camper van’s awning can be extended and retracted using the touch display in the vehicle cockpit or a separate display in the living area. Just like the refrigerator, the heating can also be controlled with the control tool via the tablet or smartphone. The hot water heating communicates its operating status to the MBAC App. In this way, campers can set their preferred temperature or escape the cold via the boost function.

Everything under control. Everything at a glance.

Every cleanliness fanatic dreams of a future without dirty hands: with the MBAC, the modern camper takes a big step closer to this wish. Instead of crawling under the vehicle itself or opening flaps, the status check of the central filling levels can be called up via an app. The status of fresh water, grey water, gas or auxiliary battery is clearly displayed. The state of charge of the solar system can also be conveniently checked with a click. If a filling level reaches a critical level, the program displays the maintenance requirements in good time. This prevents breakdowns and greatly simplifies travel planning. The lighting can also be controlled via a mobile device. One click and the Sprinter provides a romantic atmosphere with dimmed light or starts the colorful party lighting. MBAC users can choose between predefined lighting scenarios and individual configurations.

A woman operates the MBAC control app on the sofa

Check the Sprinter's battery from the sofa – with the MBAC campers can lean back and relax.

A man driving his new Sprinter on a dirt track

The features can be controlled by voice using the app and the integrated body display as well as MBUX.

A man looks at the MBAC app on his smartphone

A look at the user interface of the MBAC App. The 3D model informs you about the status of the doors and flaps.

Two hands on a smartphone – the fill levels are displayed

The filling levels can be checked from the sofa. Is there enough gas in the tank? What about the waste water?

Photos: Phillip Köhler

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
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From Paris to Normandy and back – with the Citan to custom-made glasses.

Optician Jeremy Acoca and his Citan set off for the Atlantic to pick up handmade glasses at the workshop of eyewear maker Jérôme Aupin. We were allowed to accompany him.

An optician on four wheels.

North of the French capital, Jeremy Acoca and his black Citan meander through the picturesque streets of Chantilly until he leaves the city and enters the unspoilt nature of Normandy. His route takes him to the “Côte Fleurie” (flower coast) in the seaside resort of Deauville. He took the long road to visit the eyewear maker Jérôme Aupin in his workshop and pick up a custom-made glasses frame for one of his customers.

A Mercedes-Benz Citan drives along a harbour

No journey is too far for hand-made glasses: in his Mercedes-Benz Citan, optician Jeremy Acoca drives to Deauville to pick up glasses.

L’Opticien de Chantilly – A passionate optician.

Jeremy Acoca has been working as an optician for 25 years. His optician shop L’Opticien de Chantilly is a concept store with a focus on exquisite selection and tailor-made eyewear. One thing is particularly important in his profession: to be passionate about serving customers. As an optician, he is responsible for selecting the right type of lenses that best fit the frame, then shaping them and inserting them into the glasses, explains Jeremy. The idea of service is particularly close to his heart. “Fast, readily available and effective” is how he describes his “service à domicile”. If his customers can’t come to his shop, he takes his Citan to their home. “I love the contact with people and their satisfaction when they find what they were looking for,” Jeremy sums up with a smile.

We founded the home service for people who can’t come to our shop.
Jeremy Acoca stands in the doorway of his optician's shop L'Opticien de Chantilly

L’Opticien de Chantilly: customer-friendly service is Jeremy Acoca’s top priority.

The optician on home visit – This is how the mobile eyewear service works:

  1. The customer can make a preselection of spectacle frames on the Internet.
  2. An appointment is made over the telephone.
  3. Jeremy drives to the customer with his preselection of spectacle frames.
  4. The customer chooses a pair of glasses.
  5. Jeremy adjusts the glasses, polishes the lenses into the right shape and inserts them.
  6. Last but not least, Jeremy brings the finished glasses home to the customer.

Glasses made to measure by Jaupin Eyeware.

The craftsman and eyewear designer Jérôme Aupin manufactures his frames completely by hand according to an old tradition. He knew early on that he wanted to set up his own company. He developed his expertise over ten years with the most exclusive Parisian opticians. “I started out as an optician, but quickly got bored,” he remembers. Beautiful glasses had always made his heart beat faster, but nobody could explain how they were made. One day he had the opportunity to meet a “Meilleur Ouvrier de France”, an award-winning eyewear designer. From him he learned what was important when making glasses. Shortly after his apprenticeship, he developed his very own personal style. In 2014, he was finally ready and founded his own company to devote himself entirely to the creation of individual glasses.

  • The individual parts of a pair of glasses lie on a worktable
  • Jérôme files the spectacle frame
  • Jérôme refines the frame in his workshop

Craftsmanship at the threshold of possibility.

Using materials such as buffalo horn, acetate, metal or solid gold, the eyewear maker creates wearable works of art – freely according to the motto “can’t, doesn’t exist”. “Give me a new challenge and I will accept it,” he replies with a smile. You have to learn to understand the different materials, because they all react differently, explains Jérôme. During production, he has dedicated himself to the rules of traditional craftsmanship and works everything by hand. Glasses are an accessory that require a great deal of attention to detail. If, for example, he chisels too much in one place, he has to start all over again. “I try to improve my skills every time by trying out new techniques, working on new materials or creating an unprecedented design. It’s a job where I learn every day,” enthuses the master craftsman.

From the drawing to the finished frame.

The first step in eyewear design is the creation of a technical drawing. He can already imagine exactly what the end product will look like. “The most difficult task is to put what’s in your head on paper,” he explains. Then a prototype is made, which is later used as a template to cut the glasses out of the desired material. He particularly appreciates the technical and creative aspects of his work: “I like being able to think up new shapes over and over again and to consider how I can implement them.” With each model he tries to achieve even more beautiful, even better results, which can be realized more and more technically. “I am fascinated by the whole process. When I listen to my clients during the meeting, I also visualize the right shape that gives them the perfect look.”

The glasses are in a box in the optician's shop

Each pair of Jaupin eyewear glasses bears the refined signature of its designer.

The design: authentic, timeless and exclusive.

With each of his eyewear models he wants to create an unmistakable style. “The glasses can be regarded as a work of art – there are no limits to the customisation. There are so many designs and details that make every shape look different.” In the future, Jérôme wants to concentrate entirely on new forms. His vision: to create unique pieces, each more crazy than the other. With eyeglass frames that bear his very own signature. The good cooperation with the optician is still indispensable: “It is exciting to work on the same project for a common customer. We share our experiences.” At the end of the day, the new pair of glasses changes hands. With the unique specimen in the trunk of the Citan, Jeremy returns to Chantilly, where he gives a satisfied customer the perfect view.

The optician and the spectacle master look at the finished spectacles

Precision down to the last detail: Jérôme and Jeremy are united by their love of craftsmanship.

The Mercedes-Benz Citan parks on the roadside

Compact all-rounder: The Citan can be flexibly adapted to the needs of its users.

The metal frame of the glasses is machined

Unusual materials, such as solid gold, require special treatment.

The eyewear maker holds the finished eyewear in his hands

The combination of design and craftsmanship creates an unmistakable style.

Jeremy looks at glasses carefully

An exacting look: The work of an optician demands maximum precision.

Jérôme and Jeremy in front of the workshop

Opticians and eyewear designers work hand in hand.

Photos: Nadine Laux

Citan

The Citan is the perfect urban delivery vehicle for your individual sector requirements. What’s more, more than 90 % of all Citan drivers are so impressed with their vehicle that they would buy it again if they had the chance. The reasons are clear: the Citan is flexible, robust and particularly economical.

Mercedes-Benz Citan
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Van-Hygiene – how to stay clean even on long journeys.

Someone washing their hands

How do I shower with just a little water? What to do if there is no toilet? We answer the most important questions about hygiene when travelling in a van.

Vanlife does not have to be unhygienic.

Hygiene in everyday life, whether with one’s own body or in the immediate environment, is a basic human need. As an inexperienced camper, you will quickly shy away when it comes to life in a van. Because comfortably furnished vans do not always have a shower and toilet and the supply of running fresh water is also limited. This makes it unimaginable for many to maintain a certain standard of hygiene in the long term. But the prejudices are deceptive. We have researched the vanlife community and found some effective tips and tricks to make living in a van a pleasant experience.

Bird's eye view of two campervans driving along a road

On the road conditions are different from those in the home.

Many paths lead to the shower.

First of all, it is important to discard the daily routine of a stationary dwelling and adapt to the conditions of a home on two axes. It starts with the fresh and waste water tanks, which rarely hold more than a hundred liters. This is not enough for extensive showers, especially not if you are travelling in pairs and also wash dishes from time to time. However, there are other ways to do your own body washing. The easiest way is to make use of sanitary facilities at rest areas, camping sites or in swimming pools. Some long-distance travelers have already signed up for a membership in a fitness chain in order to enjoy a hot shower in different places. If you don’t have a shower inside or outside the van, you can also get a good result with a bucket of water and a washcloth without wasting much of the water.

Water from the cemetery.

Maybe at this point some of you might wonder: Where can I get clean fresh water from? The usual places to go are rest stops, camping sites and the like. In addition, less obvious places like cemeteries can serve as a source in case of emergency. If you also want to drink the water, it is absolutely necessary to pay attention to an appropriate identification. Alternatively, you can also buy drinking water in larger canisters at the supermarket.

A dripping tap outdoors

Water points are the be-all and end-all for campers.

If you have to pay a visit.

Another annoying and unavoidable topic is the toilet. If the van has a built-in toilet, this is only limited and better usable for, let’s just say No. 1s. Here, too, it is more practical to use cafés, fast food restaurants, petrol stations and public toilets. Therefore, it is worthwhile to regularly plan an obligatory stop before leaving a city. If you are far away from civilization, there are other possibilities. If you feel the need at night and do not want to leave the van, you can alternatively use the “pee funnel”. This term was coined by the YouTube van travel couple Eamon & Bec and describes a construction consisting of a high funnel, hose and collecting container. For the No. 2s, however, a camping toilet is recommended.

View into the interior of a tidy motorhome

You should not leave anything lying around in the van.

Keeping order in five square meters.

In addition to your own physical needs, you also have to take care of the van household. You might think that the effort is limited with a single-digit number of square meters. In fact, there is a greater danger of sinking into chaos here. With objects lying around, you clog up your space faster in a confined space. It is therefore important to use well thought-out storage systems. If you do not use an object any more, you should put it right away instead of later, that’s the golden rule. You can also save space by removing bulky packaging from purchased products, such as a muesli shrink-wrapped in plastic from a cardboard box. Last but not least, regular cleaning out is very helpful. The more order there is in the van; the faster you can clean it!

The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
Slider images