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Midcounties Co-operative leads the way with zero- emission Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL

The Midcounties Co-operative’s funeral service has become the first UK customer for a new breed of all-electric Mercedes-Benz van that produces no pollutant emissions whatsoever.

Its investment in the ground-breaking Vito E-CELL underlines Midcounties Co-operative’s commitment to environmental responsibility across all of its operations.

Unveiled to UK buyers at the 2011 Commercial Vehicle Show, the Vito E-CELL is the world’s first battery-powered van to be built on line at a mainstream production facility.

An 82hp (60kW) electric motor drives the front wheels, which means that the space beneath the load floor can be used to store the lithium-ion batteries without impinging on the cargo area.

The Vito E-CELL also employs a regenerative system which captures the energy that would otherwise be lost in braking. This is used to power the heating and ventilation system and heated seats (available as standard), making the vehicle suitable for use on the coldest of days.

Whisper-quiet, the Vito E-CELL offers an average range between recharges of 80 miles, while its volume and 775kg payload capacities are in line with those of standard models.

Warwick-based Midcounties Co-operative Funeral Group has more than 75 local funeral ‘homes’ throughout the West Midlands, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire areas, which offer a full range of services.

The Long-bodied Vito E-CELL was supplied by Blackburn dealer Ciceley Commercials, having undergone conversion to private ambulance specification by Wilcox Limousines, of Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire. It is being used to take loved ones from the place at which they passed away, to the funeral home.

Ciceley Commercials is additionally processing orders from Midcounties Co-operative Funeral for eight eco-friendly Vito 113CDI BlueEFFICIENCY models, which combine state-of the-art diesel engine technology with a raft of additional measures designed to maximise fuel efficiency. These vehicles will also by converted by Wilcox Limousines for operation as private ambulances.

Simon Fisher, Funeral Group General Manager for Midcounties Co-operative, confirmed: "We are very conscious of our responsibilities towards the wider community and determined, therefore, to do all we can to reduce our CO2 emissions.

"I have been searching for a suitable vehicle for a number of years and am delighted, therefore, to have found the E-CELL. It is a very exciting addition to our funeral fleet and one that can play a big part in helping us to achieve our environmental goals."

And Midcounties Social Responsibility Manager Mike Pickering added: "As a socially responsible business we have an ongoing commitment to defend the environment. Working with our members we do all that we can to reduce our impact on the environment and have recently achieved the Carbon Trust Standard for excellence in managing, reporting and reducing our carbon emissions.

"Investing in a low-carbon funeral vehicle programme enables us to develop our environmental practises even further and helps us minimise the carbon footprint of our business activities."

Midcounties Co-operative Funeral was already running two previous Vito models, which were supplied by Ciceley Commercials a couple of years ago. It placed its landmark order for the first electric vehicle after the dealer’s Key Account Manager Tina Todd arranged a test drive during a Mercedes-Benz Van Experience event last summer. "The customer was very impressed, and quickly realised that zero emissions need not mean zero performance," recalled Tina.

In fact, the Vito E-CELL will accelerate from 0-31mph in 6.5 seconds while, to maximise operating range, it has an electronically limited top speed of 56mph.

Midcounties Co-operative Funeral has installed a recharging facility at its Walsall funeral home – it takes a maximum of six hours to charge a completely empty battery from a 380/400 volt input. Charging the vehicle is quick and entirely safe, as the smart cable cannot be removed during charging, nor the vehicle driven off while it is attached.

The Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL is every bit as safe as standard Vito models, with the latest Adaptive ESP® anti-skid system and dual airbags both standard. The batteries are protected by a shock element and should a collision occur the high-tech voltage network is switched off when the airbag control unit activates.

Steve Bridge, Van Sales & Marketing Director for Mercedes-Benz UK, declared: "Electric mobility is the future and we are delighted that Midcounties Co-operative Funeral has become the first UK customer for our pioneering Vito E-CELL. It is the ultimate goal of Mercedes-Benz to achieve emission-free driving and our first-ever series produced electric van is testament to our commitment to deliver this."

The New Vito E-CELL is available direct from Mercedes-Benz UK on a contract hire basis and will be maintained within the manufacturer’s existing dealer network by staff using established Star Diagnosis and other servicing systems. It is free from Congestion Charge and VED fees.

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