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

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

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

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 LE 306
Premiere 13th and 14th March 1972 at the “Electric Vehicle Study Days” organized by the International Association of Electricity Supply Companies, UNIPEDE
Base L 207 / L 307 (70 hp / 52 kW)

L 206 D / L 306 D (60 hp / 44 kW)

Successor T1 (TN) “Bremer Transporter”
Payload 1,000 kg
Engine Direct current shunt engine
Battery 144 V battery (22 kWh)