British Gas is trialling 28 Nissan e-NV200 vans throughout the winter to determine the future viability of 100% electric vehicle technology.
The trial is being conducted ahead of the e-NV200 going on sale to the public next year.
The vehicles, which will be trialled until April 2014, will be used nationwide as part of the British Gas home service van fleet to assess how they perform in winter conditions during typical home services daily usage patterns.
As British Gas home services engineers operate within a defined zone, the Nissan e-NV200 should easily operate within a British Gas’ daily usage pattern.
Colin Marriott, general manager fleet at British Gas, said: “We’re committed to leading the industry in reducing the amount of carbon and other harmful tail pipe emissions emitted by our 13,000 strong vehicle fleet.
"This trial, the largest of its kind in the UK, is a great opportunity for us to understand how the Nissan e-NV200 vans perform during the winter as we move towards our goal of having at least 10% of our fleet running on electricity by 2015.
The trial is being run in collaboration with Hitachi Capital Commercial Vehicle Solutions (who manages the entire fleet for Centrica, British Gas’ parent company) and Gateshead College, which is local to Nissan's Sunderland Plant.
Hitachi Capital Commercial Vehicle Solutions’ dedicated British Gas team has been involved with extensive testing to prove the concept and played a key role in rolling out to engineers and then providing on-going 24-hour support.
Hitachi Capital has also undertaken IMI training with Gateshead College and will be involved in generating accurate total cost of ownership modelling to compare this technology with conventional the internal combustion engine drivetrain.
Gateshead College has trained British Gas drivers to ensure they are fully briefed in how to drive and live with the 100% electric Nissan e-NV200.
All 28 drivers have also been provided with a British Gas home charging point and access cards to public infrastructure to keep the vehicles charged up.
Jon Lawes, divisional managing director at Hitachi Capital Commercial Vehicle Solutions, said: “If this pilot proves a success it could mark a tipping point in the evolution of the commercial electric vehicle market.
“After working closely with British Gas, Nissan and Gateshead College to set up the pilot we will continue to play a major part in monitoring its progress throughout the winter months before analysing the results with our strategic partners and deciding on next steps.”
Jim Wright, Nissan GB managing director, said: “Piloting such a large number of vans with British Gas in advance of the e-NV200 going on sale in 2014, underlines the closeness of our relationship and marks the final stages of the vehicle’s development.
“Our engineers will take the feedback of the British Gas drivers to ensure we launch a vehicle perfectly suited to British road and business conditions.
"With an expected harsh winter ahead, the 28 Nissan e-NV200s will be delivering home services around the country whatever the weather, demonstrating how strongly the 100% electric van can perform for large fleets with challenging daily routines.”