British Gas has ordered 100 Nissan e-NV200s after concluding the vehicles are suitable for its home-service engineers following a 28-vehicle half-year trial.

The utility firm has placed an immediate order for 50 of the vans, which are now in production in Barcelona, with the second batch due on fleet before the end of the year as part of British Gas’s goal to have a minimum of 1300 electric vehicles in operation by 2017 – 10% of its fleet.

The purchase will be funded by Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, which also managed the vehicles during the trial that was held over the winter to test them in the most difficult conditions.

“The peak time for British Gas is the coldest time, there’s no point having a vehicle that doesn’t work well in cold weather,” British Gas managing director of supply chain and procurement Rob Morton told What Van? “We deliberately tried to make it as difficult as possible for the vehicles to succeed.”

The e-NV200 goes on general sale in the UK in June, with Nissan targeting 900 units this year, initially supplied through a number of specialist dealers.

Nissan’s fleet boss Barry Beeston said supply is deliberately constrained. “It’s a very small quantity, we’ll make sure they are well-placed with appropriate organisations, we’ve developed a very robust process to make sure vehicles are fit for purpose,” he said. “British Gas are taking 100 of that 900 and we’ve had indications from other organisations and have a significant number of ‘semi-placed’ orders.”

While pricing hasn’t yet been revealed Beeston confirmed that with the £8000 Government commercial vehicle grant, the e-NV200 will cost from less than £20,000. He also confirmed there will be more than one trim level and different charging options, as well as saying the firm is likely to offer outright purchase or lease of the battery. “We will offer both options to meet customer requirements, although my opinion is that most will be on a buy-buy basis,” he said.

British Gas’s 28 trial vehicles covered a total of 60,000 miles, with engineers averaging around 40 a day, although the firm said a reliable range between charges is 70-75 miles, and, according to Morton the maximum covered in a day was 110 miles, including a top-up lunchtime charge. “You have to bear in mind these vehicles were fully loaded at all times, there’s no diminishing load with our engineers,” he said.