The Mercedes-Benz Sustaineer Tech Demonstrator is the German brand's vision for the future of commercial vehicles. The company starts with an electric Sprinter and loads it with cutting-edge tech.

Sustaineer is Mercedes' portmanteau of sustainability and pioneer as a way to express the automaker's goal of pushing forward what a delivery van can be. The van features a massive solar panel on the roof that measures 4.8 square metres (51.7 square feet). It continues to charge the batteries even when the ignition is off and can provide up to 2,361 miles (3,800 kilometres) a year of range in sunny areas.

Gallery: Mercedes-Benz Sustaineer Concept

The Sustaineer has the tech to make cities cleaner. The vehicle has particulate filters in the front and underbody that scrub the air. They can suck up things like the tiny specks that come off of tyres, brakes, and asphalt. Mercedes says this tech can reduce particles measuring ten micrometres by 50 percent in the direct vicinity of the van. These filters would require replacement once a year. 

The van concept makes extensive use of sustainable materials. The underbody panels come from recycled polypropylene and textile fibres reclaimed from used tires. The partition between the cab and cargo area is straw with a waterproof coating. The shelf uprights use water-based paint with a low proportion of organic solvents. The steering wheel cover is vegan leather.

The Sustaineer has the innovative Speed Delivery Door that can identify the driver and automatically opens when that person walks up to it. It's also quieter than a traditional sliding door. Mercedes estimates on a delivery round with 150 stops, this innovation could save up to 25 minutes.

Like many modern vehicles, the Sustaineer has cameras for monitoring the road, but Mercedes is using that tech in a different way. The system monitors the road for hazards like large potholes. It then sends that info back to Mercedes, and the company can share the location with other vehicles, so that drivers can avoid the hazard.

Mercedes sees electricity as the future for its vans and already offers the eVito panel van, eVito tourer, eSprinter, and EQV. The eCitan and EQT are on the way. The Sustaineer is the brand's window into where it wants to take this segment.