smith electric.jpgIn a sign of the potential strength of the nascent electric truck market in the United States, the American division of the U.K.’s Smith Electric Vehicles has acquired its parent company.

Smith Electric Vehicles U.S. bought a majority ownership stake in its parent for $15 million from the Tanfield Group, a publicly traded company. Tanfield will retain a 49 percent ownership share of Smith.

“The board of Tanfield believes that a consolidation of the Smith Electric Vehicles U.K. entity into our associate company, SEVUS [Smith Electric Vehicles U.S.], creating a single, larger U.S. based business, would be in the best interests of shareholders, particularly in light of the plans that SEVUS management have for the combined business post this transaction,” Darren Kell, Tanfield’s chief executive, said in a statement.

While electric passenger cars such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf have captured the public imagination, replacing diesel-powered urban delivery fleets with electric vehicles may offer a bigger immediate environmental payoff. Such trucks generally travel relatively short distances and would have access to urban charging stations. And as air quality standards are tightened, pressure will grow to restrict use of heavy-duty diesel vehicles.

Smith, based in Kansas, Mo., makes electric delivery trucks and other battery-powered, heavy-duty vehicles. The United States Department of Energy has awarded the U.S. division $32 million to develop and market its electric trucks.