More than 20 Dodge Sprinter plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) will be traveling the roads in the U.S. between January and the first quarter of 2008 as part of a fleet program designed in part to test new lithium-ion battery designs. These batteries are about half the weight and have much greater storage capacities compared to standard nickel-metal hydride batteries.

“The future of plug-in hybrid technology rests on a number of improvements, the most significant being batteries,” said Andreas Truckenbrodt, executive director of DaimlerChrysler Hybrid Programs, noting that the company already has four PHEV vehicles in operation with customers

“Plug-in technology lends itself to commercial applications in which the vehicle returns to base after each shift to be plugged into the power grid but also works well in urban traffic situations for daily commuters,” he added. “These test vehicles will yield technical information through real-world driving conditions about lifetime, performance and cost of batteries.”

Truckenbrodt said the Dodge Sprinter PHEV is being offered with either a diesel or gasoline engine. He noted the diesel version should yield the highest fuel economy benefit and is the model being fleet-tested. These PHEVs also have the ability to drive up to 20 miles on electric-only power, he added.