Daimler Chrysler announced on September 21 that it will test a plug-in hybrid-electric drive train with an internal combustion engine in its Dodge Sprinter vans in early 2005.
Featuring technology spearheaded by the Palo Alto-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the U.S. test marks the domestic launch of a collaborative venture that will gauge the technological feasibility of such vehicles and monitor market acceptance.
The current program includes the design, building and testing of three Sprinter vehicles. One will be a diesel version to be operated by the Kansas City Regional Transit Authority. Two gasoline versions will be fleet-tested by Southern California Edison and South Coast Air Quality Management District. Test, performance and operating data will be captured and reported at the conclusion of this program.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor and rechargeable battery. Both systems operate in parallel, forming an economical and low-emission vehicle. Hybrid power makes it possible to drive vehicles on gas and electric power simultaneously, or on electric power only, thus ensuring zero-emission operations.
A hybrid-drive van can provide zero-emission, exceptionally quiet operation when traveling in towns and other emissions-sensitive areas. Other advantages include an unrestricted operating range, thanks to the internal combustion engine, familiar operation, which is largely the same as for a conventional vehicle, and fuel consumption savings of 10-50 percent, depending on the type of operation. The plug-in hybrid system also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is especially efficient driving in congested, stop-and-go urban traffic.
A rechargeable battery provides the electric power for the hybrid drive train. It can be charged through a standard 110- or 220-volt outlet. Running on electricity alone, the Dodge Sprinter will travel up to 20 miles before the engine is needed. The 20-mile range represents 50 percent of all daily travel driven by Americans, who drive on average 12,000 miles annually, EPRI reports.
"These EPRI-led studies have shown that plugging in each night at home would save the consumer 50- 75 percent on operating costs," said Ed Kjaer, director of Electric Transportation at Southern California Edison.
The plug-in hybrid vans are being manufactured at DaimlerChrysler's Competence Center for Low-emission Commercial Vehicles in Mannheim, Germany. The center's staff is known for its development of alternative propulsion systems, including commercial vehicles operating on natural or liquefied gas and vehicles powered by fuel cells, batteries and hybrid systems.
In addition to DaimlerChrysler and EPRI, the Dodge Sprinter hybrid test in the U.S. includes underwriting and research assistance from the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) in California, Southern California Edison, New York Power Authority, the US Department of Transportation, Kansas City Regional Transport Authority as well as technology partners ZF-Sachs and Johnson Controls / VARTA.
The Sprinter with plug-in hybrid drive is on display at the 2004 Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover. The van will be marketed under the Mercedes-Benz brand in Europe and the Dodge brand in the U.S. Additional information and news from DaimlerChrysler is available on the Internet at www.media.daimlerchrysler.com/