Royal Mail has introduced nine prototype electric vans to its London-based fleet, as one of Britain's marquee businesses looks to enter into a greener, more modern age.

The all-red, all-electric vehicles will operate from the Mount Pleasant depot in central London and carry post and larger parcels between local areas and distribution centres up to a distance of 100 miles on a single charge. The initiative is a limited, year-long trial, with the postal giant hoping to replace a sizeable portion of its 49,000 petrol-powered vehicles with cleaner alternatives.

The futuristic vans are the work of Banbury firm Arrival, which says it is capable of producing over 50,000 of its modular electric vehicles each year thanks to its artificially intelligent robotic workforce.

Arrival also states that its "smart trucks" are priced the same as diesel vehicles and are autonomous-ready following a quick software update.

Arrival, which was formerly known as Charge prior to today's announcement, is owned by the creators of Roborace – a nascent autonomous racing series. Arrival also provides electric components for the Roborace cars and supports Formula E with logistics vehicles.

The trial rollout comes just weeks after Royal Mail announced that it had agreed a deal with French carmaker Peugeot to purchase 100 electric vans. The vehicles will be introduced in December and driven by postmen and women as standard delivery vans.

At the time, Royal Mail's fleet director, Paul Gatti, said: "Our research has shown that electric vans are a good operational fit with our business and we are delighted to be ordering such a large volume to use in our daily operations. This is good news for our customers and the towns and cities which we serve. It also means we are on the front foot for future changes in emissions legislation."