One of the big advantages of Smith’s battery-powered Edison is that it looks so conventional. It doesn’t have the sort of off-the-wall styling and oddball cab layout that are guaranteed to put some van drivers off.
It is of course based on Ford’s ubiquitous Transit, but fitted with lithium-ion batteries and a 90kW electric motor rather than a fuel tank and a diesel engine. Top speed is 50mph with a range of up to 130 miles between recharges.
Regenerative braking is fitted and a fast-charge system is available that can replenish the batteries in as little as four hours.
Gross weights range from 3.5 to 4.6 tonnes while maximum payloads run from 575kg to 1,600kg. Cargo space goes up to 14.3m3.
The cab is virtually the same as that of a Transit; sensibly laid out and with plenty of places to stow all the items that drivers habitually carry around with them.
On the road the Edison is tracktable at low speeds, with little or no jerkiness. Press the accelerator pedal and you’ll accelerate away strongly, and in almost complete silence aside from tyre and wind noise.
Edison’s handling and ride characteristics are pretty much the same of those of a standard Transit, which means that they’re more than competent.
As with almost all electric vehicles, the big drawback is the front-end price. Manufacturer Smith Electric Vehicles will charge you around £58,000, although that does include the battery pack.
Remember though that vans like the Edison are extraordinarily cheap to run. The power they need costs a few pence per mile, you don’t have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty and you’re exempt from the London congestion tax.
As for maintenance, the battery pack and related items require an annual check while the base vehicle requires servicing every 15,000 miles in line with Ford requirements. Transit itself is covered by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty, but Edison’s battery pack is warranted for five years/1,000 cycles.
Edison is also marketed as a chassis cab and as a minibus. It’s worth noting too that Smith produces an electric light truck called the Newton that grosses at from 7.5 to 12 tonnes.