With Britons consuming vast amounts of their products to keep cool in the heatwave, ice cr​eam makers are ringing up record sales.

But for Exmoor-based farmhouse producer David Baker the wall-to-wall sunshine is proving a double bonus – because he’s just rolled out the UK’s first-ever solar-powered ice cream van.

His prototype vehicle has taken to the road after more than a year’s design and construction and it’s already trading at outdoor events, running silently with none of the usual incessant drone of a diesel engine - or its fumes.

Now David, owner of Styles Farmhouse Ice Cream, based in Rodhuish, near Minehead, is in the process of patenting the design and is planning a £1 million investment to replace his entire fleet of 11 vans with clean-energy versions.

The new van’s roof-mounted solar panels charge a bank of batteries to keep the freezers,  fridges and internal lighting running, the system only switching automatically to a back-up LPG generator as a last resort, David explained.

“If the sun is shining all day then we can operate on 100 per cent solar power and only if it turns cloudy do we need about half an hour’s help from the generator – but with the extra batteries we are installing we should be able to cut its use almost to zero,” he said.

Sheep farmer David and his wife Sue set up the Styles Farmhouse business 30 years ago when they launched a range of ewe’s milk ice cream.

They now sell around 100 tons of sheep’s and conventional dairy ice cream a year, much of it at the 180-plus agricultural shows and other outdoor events their vans attend across the country during a hectic, five-month summer season.

“But diesel is becoming increasingly stigmatised as a dirty fuel and really the last thing people want to be doing is eating ice cream in a cloud of fumes,” said David.

“I could also see the time coming when show organisers would insist on food retailers using far cleaner energy sources, so a year ago I began to combine all the available technologies into a system that was unique and patentable.

“The van itself is diesel-powered but once we arrive on site the engine isn’t turned on again until we leave and the sun does the rest. It’s saving me £15 a day in fuel plus the cost of plugging into an electricity socket on the showground – and that can be as much as another £150.

“The van’s already trading and starting to recoup the investment we have made in it and once we have carried out one or two tweaks to the design we’ll be ready to start completely re-equipping our fleet.”