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Chrysler Gearing Up for ZEV Mandate


In a flurry of activity as the deadline approaches for California's zero-emissions vehicle mandate to kick in, DaimlerChrysler this week acquired a manufacturer of small, low-speed electric vehicles, announced plans to begin selling a hybrid sport-utility vehicle that uses both gasoline and electric motors and confirmed that it will begin leasing a small number of electric minivans to consumers at the start of the 2003 model year.

The company is one of six major auto makers required under terms of the so-called ZEV mandate to produce for sale in California a combination of low-emissions and zero-emissions vehicles equal to 10% of their annual statewide sales beginning in the 2003 model year.

It is not clear whether the Durango gasoline-electric SUV announced Tuesday will help the company meet its ZEV obligation, but the EPIC electric minivan and the new low-speed electric vehicles will.

An all-day public hearing on possible modification of the ZEV mandate is scheduled today at the California Air Resources Board office in El Monte.

Chrysler, the German-American auto maker's U.S. arm, said its hybrid Durango will use a conventional 3.9-liter V-6 gasoline engine to drive the rear wheels and a small electric motor--powered by an on-board generator--to drive its front wheels. The system would give the hybrid the power of a V-8 with the fuel economy of a V-6, said Chrysler spokesman Sjoerd Dijkstra.

DaimlerChrysler said Monday it had acquired privately held Global Electric Motorcars for an undisclosed price. North Dakota-based GEM makes about 5,000 battery-powered neighborhood electric vehicles a year. They resemble oversize golf carts and are legal in 32 states, including California, on surface streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less.

The EPIC, or Electric Powered Interurban Commuter, is a standard Chrysler Voyager minivan fitted on a special chassis that holds storage batteries and an electric power plant. There are about 160 EPICs in use, all in test fleets.

Chrysler says it will begin leasing the five-passenger vans in California for the first time when the new models come out.



A skeptic test-drives seven electric vehicles. G1

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