Rob Dixon, md of Piaggio Commercial UK promised the Porter would be available in petrol, diesel and electric guises.

The Porter is currently only built in left-hand drive, which Dixon claimed suited the health and safety requirements of councils because drivers exit on the kerbside, but a partner has now been found to convert the vans to right-hand drive. This will cost about £1000 but Dixon said: “We can absorb some of that.” RHD versions should be available in mid-2013.

“There will be a big push on Porter in 2013,” he said.

The firm is already importing the three-wheeled commercial Ape (pronounced Apay, which means bee in Italian).

Piaggio has established a 15-strong retail network and is promoting the vehicle through the Piaggo Ape World Championship race series that will initially be held at Rye House Raceway in Hertfordshire.

The tiny Ape, which can be driven on a provisional licence, is available with a 50cc 2-stroke petrol engine, the Ape TM (pictured) comes with a 220cc 2-stroke and the Ape Classic is powered by a 422cc 4-stroke diesel unit.

The line-up is offered in van, pick-up and tipper guises with payloads ranging from 175kg to 805kg. Load volumes for the van go from 1.5M3 up to 2.5m3.

Dixon said the retail network included Piaggio scooter dealers and used van dealers who wanted a franchise.

He said the Apes were popular with food and coffee vendors and soft drinks companies such as Coca-Cola as well as being ideal for urban drop-offs and airport shuttle work. He forecast sales of 100 Apes in 2012 and predicted combined sales of Porter and Ape of 200 in 2013.

Ape prices start from £4123, excluding VAT and the LHD Porter starts from £7995.