A recently developed product from a recently formed company is an electric-drive van, with shuttle-bus versions now in production and cargo vans available.

The Zenith electric van from Zenith Motors uses a Ram ProMaster body with a Borg-Warner electric drivetrain, including a 180-horsepower motor and a 62.5-kilowatt-hour bank of lithium-ion phosphate batteries, said Christine Smith, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing.

It’s called the Zenith 350 for its 3,500-pound payload capacity; its volumetric capacity is 530 cubic feet. Operating range is 70 to 85 miles, depending on weight carried. Top speed is limited to 60 mph. 

Regenerative braking reduces service-brake wear and helps keep the batteries charged; when depleted, batteries take 6.5 hours to recharge using a 220/240-volt, 40-ampere circuit, according to information on the company’s website.  

The Zenith van retains the ProMaster’s front-wheel-drive layout and low floor height for good traction and easy loading and unloading, Smith said. The company obtains completely finished vans from Chrysler, removes their powertrains and installs the electric apparatus. It’s done this way for simplicity of production by Chrysler and ease of movement during shipping and handling in Zenith’s plant, at Wilder, Ky., near Cincinnati. 

The Zenith is now being made as a shuttle bus, with seats and side windows, and several are in use by hotels in Phoenix, Orlando and Tampa, and in Covington, Ky., near Zenith’s facilities, Smith said. The model 350 cargo van is available but none has yet been built.  

Zenith was formed in 2011 to develop the van, and anticipates increasing demand as potential customers see the advantages of modern electric propulsion, Smith said.

The cargo van’s list price is $89,500, offset by a federal tax credit of $5,500 and local grants and credits.  

With no internal combustion engine, there is no costly fuel to buy and little if any powertrain maintenance, so there are significant operating savings and payback can come quickly, she said.

Caption: The Zenith 350 electric cargo van has a GVW rating of 9,350 pounds and can carry up to 3,500 pounds with a range of 70 to 85 miles. It uses a Ram ProMaster body and front-wheel-drive Borg-Warner powertrain.