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Sprinter gets gassed

Dual-fuel: Sprinter NGT is under evaluation for sale in Australia.

Mercedes-Benz's dual-fuel Sprinter is a natural for Europe, but not Australia - yet

29 Apr 2008

MERCEDES-BENZ has commenced series production of its natural-gas powered Sprinter NGT, which it claims offers 30 per cent lower running costs than the equivalent diesel commercial, ahead of a European market launch next month.

As yet no Australian launch timing has been revealed, but M-B Australia/Pacific commenced local market investigations for natural-gas engine technology in the previous-generation Sprinter in 2001 in response to customer demand, and is currently conducting a feasibility study into the new Sprinter NGT.

Unlike the previous gas-powered Sprinter, the local release of which was hampered by a lack of natural gas refuelling facilities around Australia, the new model is powered by a mixture of both natural-gas and liquid fuel (instead of NG exclusively).

4 center imageThe new Sprinter 316/516 NGT models, which will be available in Europe in a wide range of variants, feature a bivalent natural-gas drive system that meets strict EU4 emissions standards and is claimed to be extremely quiet.

Like all natural gas engines, the Sprinter NGT emits no particulates and vastly reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide compared to diesel engines. CO2 emissions are claimed to be 20 per cent lower than an equivalent petrol engine, and the Sprinter NGT is said to be “virtually CO2-neutral” when powered by biogas.

With help from a belt-driven supercharger, the 1.8-litre four-cylinder NGT engine produces 115kW (up from 95kW in the previous model) and 240Nm of peak torque (up from 185Nm) in both gas and petrol mode, but the latter extends its range to up to 1200km.

Switching between NG and petrol is as easy as pressing a button to the left of the ignition key. An indicator light comes on when in natural gas mode, there is a gas level display inside the cockpit and the under-floor mounted gas tanks are filled via a connection just above the petrol filler neck.

The 3.5-tonne Sprinter can accommodate up to six tanks that hold a maximum of 46kg or a volume of 294 litres, while the 5.0-tonne Sprinter uses three tanks that hold 39kg or 246 litres. Weight increases over the standard four-cylinder diesel-powered Sprinter models range between 170 and 300kg.

The Sprinter 316 NGT has a gross vehicle weight rating of 3.5 tonnes and comes as a panel van, crewbus, pick-up and cab-chassis in standard length, and as a long-wheelbase panel van, pick-up and cab-chassis. The Sprinter 516 NGT has a gross vehicle weight rating of 5.0 tonnes and is available in Europe in pick-up and cab-chassis guises.

Mercedes says the current network of around 2500 natural gas stations throughout Europe is constantly expanding, but the lack of a similar spread of NG outlets here could continue to keep the clean-burning Benz commercials off Australian roads.

Read more:

First drive: Sprinter sales boost is in the mail

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