Far ahead of its time – the Mercedes-Benz LE 306.

The LE 306 while the battery is being changed

With the new EQ brand, Daimler now sets new standards in electromobility. It all began with the presentation of the LE 306 van study 45 years ago.

From a concept to a large-scale trial.

The success story of electrically powered vehicles at Daimler AG begins in 1972. The LE 306 is presented to an expert audience at the “Electric Vehicle Study Days”. The light van is also presented to the broader public during the same year and a fleet of test vehicles is used at the Olympic Games. In close cooperation with the Society for Electronic Road Transport (GES), a large-scale trial with 58 vehicles is ultimately carried out. Trade publications such as “Lastauto Omnibus” remain very skeptical of the innovative vehicle at the time: range too short, battery too expensive.

The Mercedes-Benz LE 306 with lettering, parked in front of a forklift

An important topic even in 1972: “Mercedes-Benz – Environmentally-friendly thanks to the electric drive” stated the lettering on the side of the LE 306.

A technology with potential.

Yet the trade press also recognizes the potential and the advantages offered by the new technology. The LE 306 is far ahead of its time. The van is based on the L 207 and L 307 or L 206 D and L 306 D and powered by a direct current shunt motor with a power output of 35 to 56 kW. The 860 kg, 144 volt battery powers the motor. With the support of the industrial partners Varta (battery) and Kiepe (electronic control), the LE 306 already achieved a range of 50 to 100 kilometers and a maximum speed of up to 80 km/h.

The Mercedes-Benz LE 306 van with the battery extended

The successor of the LE 306 was the T1 or TN, also known as the “Bremer Transporter”.

A pioneer of electromobility.

In addition, the LE 306 is also equipped with a clever battery-change system. The discharged battery can be pulled out and replaced with a new one in a matter of moments. Furthermore, the LE 306 already utilized recuperation technology. During braking, the kinetic energy is transformed into electrical energy and fed into the battery. As a result, the motor also serves as a generator. What was once a milestone of engineering technology is now utilized in many Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Recuperation is still used as a technology for generating energy. The LE 306 was one important foundation for today’s electric vehicles, making it a pioneer of electromobility.

Profile Mercedes-Benz LE 306


13th and 14th March 1972 at the ‘Electric Vehicle Study Days’ organized by the International Association of Electricity Supply Companies, UNIPEDE


L 207 / L 307 (70 hp / 52 kW) – L 206 D / L 306 D (60 hp / 44 kW)


T1 (TN) ‘Bremer Transporter’


1,000 kg


Direct current shunt engine


144 V battery (22 kWh)

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The chassis of the LE 306 as a museum exhibit

The LE 306 was built on the basis of the L 207 and L 206 D vans, which were powered by gasoline and diesel engines.

The Mercedes-Benz LE 306 van on a one-way road

When the vehicle is not on the road, the LE 306’s battery can also be recharged in the vehicle via a mains charger.

The LE 306 seen from the front with lettering on the sides

After the LE 306, Mercedes-Benz continues developing the electric drive system in various models. Including a variety of vans.

The LE 306 next to the OE 302 and the OG 305

In addition to the LE 306, the electric test bus OE 302 and the natural gas test bus OG 305 were also equipped with alternative drive systems.

Photos: Daimler


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