The all-electric, zero-emission Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL has won the coveted accolade of “Most energy efficient light commercial vehicle (in production)” at the 2011 RAC Future Car Challenge.

Mercedes Benz Electric Vehicle

Entrants in electric and hybrid vehicles, and others powered by hydrogen fuel cells, were challenged to use as little energy as possible to complete a 60-mile route, with the Vito E-CELL proving the most efficient in its class.

The Mercedes-Benz contender was one of 65 low- and zero-emission vehicles taking part in the second Brighton to London Future Vehicle Challenge, which seeks to promote the latest low-energy vehicle technology.

The Vito E-CELL was a joint entry by The Hyde Group and Elektromotive, with support from Mercedes-Benz UK. It completed the route with a recorded 28% of its charge still unused.

An estimated crowd of 250,000 people lined the route as vehicles reached the capital and made for the finish in Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, home of the Royal Automobile Club.

Steven Bridge, Van Sales & Marketing Director for Mercedes-Benz UK, declared: “This is a fantastic accomplishment for the Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL. As a full factory built and supported vehicle, we know it has a great deal to offer operators. This event has proved that the vehicle has a useable range and is very capable in terms of its low energy consumption.”

The Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL was the first battery-electric van to be introduced ex factory by any automobile manufacturer, opening a new chapter in drive technology for light commercial vehicles. With its emission-free drive system, it is ideally suited to operation in inner-cities and environmentally sensitive areas.

The Vito E-CELL produces no emissions and is almost silent, yet imposes no restrictions on the operator in terms of load capacity and payload. Production of this groundbreaking model began in July 2010 and 2000 units are planned for a worldwide market in 2011.

Tom Shaw, Development Project Manager for Hyde, said: “Hyde has been at the forefront of the sustainable building design agenda for over a decade. We have a five year plan to become the sector leader in environmental sustainability, reducing our reliance on natural resources and being prepared for the future climate. Hyde’s investment in electric vehicle infrastructure in Brighton & Hove is one of a number of sustainability initiatives which will be delivered through the regeneration of the city’s “Open Market” site. The Electric Vehicle club proposed to be set up with our partner City Car Club will enable Hyde residents, local people and businesses to live and trade more sustainably.”

Elektromotive, the UK’s leading provider of electric vehicle (EV) recharging posts, has been chosen to meet the recharging infrastructure requirements for Brighton’s first electric car club. The company will supply a Rapid Charge Elektrobay which can charge the battery of a compatible EV to 80 per cent of its capacity in just 20 minutes, compared to around seven hours if using a conventional domestic power supply. The first vehicle planned to join the new club fleet will be a fully-electric Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL van, which will be made available to traders operating in Brighton.

Calvey Taylor-Haw, Managing Director of Elektromotive, commented: “Sustainable developments such as these will be accompanied hand-in-hand by a rise in sustainable transport. Innovative, pioneering schemes like this show how the EV charging infrastructure could develop organically, and how electric vehicles can work for consumers and commercial owners alike.”