Owners of commercial service vans in Southern California wishing to convert their fuel-guzzling models into electric-powered vehicles may be a step closer to that reality thanks to a $300,000 grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD).

The grant, provided to AC Propulsion, will help the company launch a conversion program to develop the electric propulsion system and conversion process for full-size vans that are used by service fleets nationwide, the company said.

“AC Propulsion's electric drive system is proven and patented to work for a broad range of vehicles,” said Tom Gage, CEO of AC Propulsion. “The grant from AQMD is allowing us the opportunity to take gasoline-fueled commercial trucks and replace all of the components that contribute to air pollution with a zero-emissions system.”

Once converted, the vans will run on electric power only.

“Cleaner technologies such as AC Propulsion’s electric drive system have great potential to help improve air quality in Southern California through cleaner vehicle fleets,” said Barry Wallerstein, AQMD’s executive officer.

AC Propulsion said the money will be used to create a developmental prototype, a safety-and-crash testing vehicle, and a real-world test vehicle. Testing should begin during the summer of 2011.