A British specialist in electric vehicle drivetrains will provide advanced technology for a US government-backed electric commercial vehicle programme.

A range of electric delivery vehicles being developed for the North, Central and South American markets will use a 70kW Zytek powertrain. Developed with the support of a US$39m (GBP23m) US government grant, the vehicles will be manufactured by a new joint venture company being established by truckmaker Navistar and British electric commercial vehicle specialist Modec.

Zytek's E-Drive is already in service in vehicles such as Daimler's Smart ed and Modec's existing range of electric light commercial vehicles. Zytek has also provided technology and integration expertise for General Motors and Chrysler production and concept vehicle programmes.

The new US application will be for a new generation of class 2c-3 vehicles optimised for suburban/urban pick up and drop applications. The grant will help fund the development, validation and deployment of an initial batch of 400 vehicles during 2010. Gross vehicle weight will be 12,100lb (5.5 tonnes) and lithium ion batteries will provide a range of about 100 miles (160km).

Zytek's sales and marketing director Steve Tremble claims electric vehicles are ideal for stop-start drive cycles.

"An EV's operating characteristics bring far more than zero emissions at the point of deployment," he said. "A thoroughly engineered vehicle will bring substantial fuel savings, combined with high productivity, near silent operation and very low maintenance costs."

Zytek also supplies engine management systems for internal combustion engines and recent projects include two diesel hybrids.