Zero-emission vehicles dominate show

Zero-emission vehicles were one of the main themes of this week's CV Show, with all the major players jostling for position. Smith Electric Vehicles took pole position with the announcement of a joint venture with Ford, and news that it plans to break into the high-volume distribution market with the launch of the Ampere - an electric version of the Transit Connect.

Both this and the current Transit-based <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Edison will be jointly branded as both Smith and Ford. Darren Kell, chief executive officer of Tanfield, the parent company of Smith Electric Vehicles, says: "We now have a vehicle which has the payload and performance to match its diesel equivalent. Payload is 820kg, it has a top speed of 70mph and a range of 100 miles.

He is optimistic the Ampere will open up a huge new market for Smith, and is confident that it will attract a "multitude of new customers who operate in urban areas". Sales are likely to be boosted further still if Ford agrees to sell both vans through its UK dealer network.

When it goes on sale in the autumn, the Ampere will cost roughly twice that of a regular diesel-powered Connect. Running costs are an estimated 1.5p per mile, and, according to Kell, payback will be about three-and-a-half years.

Smith is also looking to make a big impact in the US market, where it will sell both the Ampere and, eventually, the Edison. Its US production facility will also produce electric versions of the Ford F350, F450, F550 and F650.