Palo Alto, Calif. —DaimlerChrysler has announced this week it will test a plug-in hybrid-electric drive train with an internal combustion engine in its Dodge Sprinter vans in early 2005, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The joint venture 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, according to EPRI.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. The rechargeable battery 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. "These EPRI-led studies have shown that plugging in each night at home would save the consumer 50 - 75% on operating costs," said Ed Kjaer, director of Electric Transportation at Southern California Edison.EPRI is a non-profit center for public interest energy and environmental research.