Hope springs eternal, as Alexander Pope notably said, and so it is in the world of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

A new British partnership has unveiled two drivable prototypes of a lightweight plug-in electric urban delivery van with a small diesel range extender.

The two companies, Intelligent Energy (IE) and Revolve Technologies (Revolve), hope to sell the extended-range electric van to fleet operators in the U.K. and elsewhere, including the U.S.

The pair spent 18 months on the concept, development, engineering, and testing of the van, which uses an aluminum chassis and space frame with composite body panels.

Its 25 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack was provided by Axeon, and the electric motor by EVO, with noted British vehicle consulting firm Ricardo developing other components. The small diesel range extender is a 67-horsepower unit from a European Ford.

The partners say the van achieves 31.4 g/km of CO2 emissions, or 193 mpg (though that figure comes from a different test cycle than the U.S. EPA uses), and ultimately they hope to reduce that to 25 g/km, or 250 mpg.

IE has established a subsidiary, Emerald Automotive, that will continue development through to manufacturing--assuming sufficient sales interest develops.

The project was partly funded by the U.K. government's Technology Strategy Board as part of its Low-Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform.

Prototype of range-extended electric delivery van by Revolve Technologies & Intelligent Energy, UK

Prototype of range-extended electric delivery van by Revolve Technologies & Intelligent Energy, UK

Total development funding was approximately $8 million (more than £5 million).

Further details will be provided when the van is unveiled at a media event within a few months.

If this all sounds familiar, it may be because it's the same approach that was taken by Bright Automotive, a promising startup company that aimed to develop a 100-mpg plug-in hybrid electric delivery van in the U.S.

Despite a $5 million investment by GM Ventures in August 2010, an agreement with AM General for van assembly late last year, and other signed contracts, Bright went out of business and closed down after more than two years of inaction on its application for low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Energy.

In this case, we hope the British partnership keeps in mind a quotation made famous by Edmund Burke.

Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it.


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.