The Chrysler arm of DaimlerChrysler will offer a gas-electric hybrid car in the US in 2003, the company announced on 24 October. The hybrid Dodge Durango, like other planned or available hybrid models, will use an electric motor tied to a battery pack to increase mileage, and cost a few thousand dollars more than a regular version. The Japanese carmakers Toyota and Honda (see related story) already sell hybrid vehicles in the United States, Ford is to release a model in 2003 and General Motors has said that their hybrid will be produced from in 2004.

DaimlerChrysler’s hybrid will operate more simply than those of other manufacturers, which have an electric motor between the vehicle’s regular gas engine and its transmission, providing a power boost and using the engine’s power to charge the batteries, the company says. The Durango will have no physical connection between the electric motor and the gas engine. The vehicle will use a 3.9 litre engine driving just the rear wheels, with an electric motor over the front axle powering the front wheels, and charging a battery pack when the brakes are engaged.

Bob Davis, DaimlerChrysler’s Director of advanced electric propulsion systems, said the company may build up to 15%, or about 30,000, of its Durangos as hybrids and that the car will get about 18.6 miles (29.8 km) to the gallon in combined city and highway driving, representing a 20% improvement over the non-hybrid model. It will cost about $3,000 more than the current model. However, car manufacturers believe the higher cost of hybrids has limited their sales so far. As a result DaimlerChrysler has been pushing for Congress to approve a tax credit for hybrid vehicle owners, but the bill has not yet been passed.

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