RUSSIAN businessman Denis Sverdlov has invested £20m in an Enstone-based company that is developing electric-powered trucks and buses.

Mr Sverdlov, who was once a Russian government deputy minister, said of the nascent technology: “It decreases fuel consumption by two to three times.”

The automotive business Charge, which started operations in January 2015, is the first UK venture for his $500m investment fund, Kinetik.

He said: “We are confident that ultimately all vehicles will become electric. The only question is when.”

But Mr Sverdlov, 37, who has a degree in economics from the St Petersburg State University of Engineering and Economics, said that for the time being electric vehicles, which have a limited range and need up to eight hours to recharge their batteries, will also need to use petrol.

Charge is developing electric powertrains for trucks and buses, which weigh between 2.5 and 26 tonnes.

Mr Sverdlov said the unit was powered by both an electric battery, which had a range of about 70km, and a one-litre fuel generator, which combined gave the commercial vehicle a total range of about 700km.

He said: “We found a way to make it at the same price as a conventional [commercial] vehicle.

“It should be cost-efficient.”

He said Charge was currently in discussions with undisclosed manufacturers of commercial vehicles as well as fleet managers, and that he expected to sign supply agreements by the end of 2015.

Charge employs about 40 staff, more than half working at Enstone, and most of them are engineers.

The company is based at the site of the Lotus Formula One racing team.

Mr Sverdlov said he chose the location because the Oxfordshire automotive industry that supports the local F1 racing teams made it easier to hire top engineers.

Another factor was that his former Russian wireless broadband provider, Yota, had a commercial relationship with Lotus.

Mr Sverdlov was chief executive of Yota, which was acquired by Russian telco MegaFon in 2012.

He served as the Russian deputy communications and mass media minister for 15 months before standing down in 2013.

His departure came after the Russian government imposed a law that prohibited federal officials and their family members from owning bank accounts or assets outside Russia.

Mr Sverdlov said his family were by that time already living in France.

He and his wife and their three children moved to London from France earlier this month.