Employees of British Gas are now being transported between the company’s network of offices in and around West London, in a pair of fully-electric Mercedes-Benz people-carriers that are emission-free in operation.
The seven-seat Vito E-Cell Traveliners represent the latest stage of the operator’s drive to replace at least 10% of its fleet of 13,000 vans with electric vehicles.
The minibuses provide a shuttle service between the eight British Gas buildings in Staines, as well as carrying staff to and from other offices in Windsor, and nearby railway stations.
The UK’s largest energy and home services company is a provider of electric vehicle charging points and an enthusiastic proponent of zero-emissions transport.
The investment in the ground-breaking Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL underlines the commitment of British Gas to reducing its environmental impact.
British Gas electric vehicle specialist James Rooney said: “We’re committed to reducing our carbon emissions and minimising the impact of our operations on the local environment. These new vehicles, which produce no pollutants and are also exceptionally quiet in operation, will help to strengthen our commitment.”
He continued: “We chose these Vito E-Cells because Mercedes-Benz is often regarded as a leader in emerging technologies.
“We also know from experience that Mercedes-Benz vehicles are superbly reliable – we have seven Sprinter minibuses in operation already and have just introduced several minibuses with automatic transmissions at a site in Leicester.”
The E-Cells wear eye-catching liveries proclaiming their zero-emission credentials and, when not in use, take pride of place at the front of the impressive building, parked alongside pillars on which charging points have been installed.
Also produced in a panel van version, the Vito E-Cell was the world’s first battery-powered light commercial vehicle to be built on line at a mainstream production facility.
An 82hp (60kW) electric motor drives the front wheels, which means that the space beneath the load floor can be used to store the lithium-ion batteries without impinging on the passenger or cargo area.
The E-Cell also employs a regenerative system which captures the energy that would otherwise be lost in braking.
As well as increasing range, this is used to support power for the heating and ventilation system and standard-fit heated seats, making the vehicle suitable for use on the coldest of days.
The British Gas vehicles were supplied by Mercedes-Benz Retail Group and are the subject of a CharterWay contract hire agreement with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. This includes all repair and maintenance work, most of which will be undertaken at the Heathrow branch of Britain’s largest Dealer Rygor, as well as 24-hour emergency assistance cover.
The Vito E-Cell is free from Congestion Charge and VED fees and offers volume and payload capacities which are in line with those of standard models.
It can potentially cover an average of 80 miles between recharges – to maximise operating range, the vehicle has an electronically limited top speed of 56 mph.
A completely empty battery can be recharged from a 400 volt input in a maximum of six hours.
The batteries are protected by a shock element and should a collision occur the high-tech voltage network is automatically isolated when the airbag control unit activates.