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Chrysler Wins U.S. Army Contract for 4,000 Electric Vehicles

Jan. 9 -- Chrysler LLC won a contract to supply 4,000 electric vehicles, the biggest order of its kind, for the U.S. Army to use on military bases.

The cars and light trucks will be leased over three years from Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler’s Global Electric Motorcars division, the Army said in a statement today.

The six-year leases of the golf-cart size vehicles will give a boost to Chrysler’s GEM. The division, based in Fargo, North Dakota, has sold 38,000 plug-in rechargeable cars and light trucks since its founding in 1998.

“The speed limit is 25 or 30 miles per hour on the bases. It doesn’t make sense to buy a car that goes 100 miles per hour, but never gets above 30,” Deputy Assistant Army Secretary Paul Bollinger Jr. said in an interview.

GEM makes battery-powered “neighborhood electric vehicles.” With a top speed of 25 mph (40 kilometers per hour), they can’t be driven on highways. The Chrysler electrics will be added to the Army’s base fleet of 28,000 cars and light trucks.

The first batch of 800 vehicles will be shipped in April, followed by deliveries of 1,600 a year in 2010 and 2011.

The purchase cost of the electrics is $10,200 compared with $13,500 for the gasoline models, the Army said. The plug-in models cost $400 a year to operate versus $2,400 for conventional vehicles, Bollinger said. The new electrics will have windshield wipers, heaters and metal doors, making them more carlike than earlier versions, he said.

Charging Time

The vehicles recharge in about six to eight hours through 110-volt outlets. A full charge powers a 30-mile driving range.

The contract is part of an Army effort to cut total fuel consumption by 2 percent by 2015, Bollinger said. The electric vehicles will account for almost half of that reduction.

The side of each vehicle will be labeled with the logo, “Army Green, Army Strong.”

The deal ties Chrysler closer to the federal government, which just lent the company $4 billion to stay in business. The third-largest U.S. automaker had said it may run out of money by the middle of this month without the loan.

GEM is a profitable division, Joan Michelson, a spokeswoman for the unit, said in an interview yesterday. Chrysler is closely held by Cerberus Capital Management LP and doesn’t report its financial results.

Chrysler also plans to sell a highway-worthy electric car or sport-utility vehicle in 2010. It will be one of four prototype vehicles, including a minivan, Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Patriot and a sports car called the Dodge Circuit.

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