Chrysler Corp. will begin building electric minivans in October on the same assembly line on which gasoline-powered Plymouth Voya-gers and Dodge Caravans are made.
The 1999 Plymouth Voyager EPIC and Dodge Caravan EPIC will be assembled in Chrysler's Windsor, Ontario, minivan plant. EPIC stands for Electric Powered Intraurban Commuter.
The electric versions of the minivans will be leased to fleet owners in California and New York, where most demand is expected.
Chrysler will build about 2,000 during the 1999 model year, said James Cerano, Team EPIC program manager.
'This is the first time we will build electric minivans at a production site with current minivans,' Cerano said.
Fleets may lease the EPIC for three years at $450 per month. Utilities, colleges, military bases and parks programs have expressed interest in the electric minivans, Cer-ano said.
A nickel-metal-hydride battery pack is located under the floor of the minivan to power the electric motor.
EPIC's top speed is 80 mph, and its projected range on a full charge is about 85 miles under normal conditions.
The EPIC minivan was launched in the 1997 model year, but only 15 were produced and sold in Califor-nia. Work then began on changing from lead-acid batteries to the nickel-metal-hydride power source, Cerano said.
The nickel-metal-hydride batteries have a four- to six-year life expectancy and an 85-mile range.
The previous lead-acid batteries only had a one- to two-year life expectancy and a 60-mile range.
The EPIC minivan batteries weigh 1,400 pounds and are housed in an aluminum tub. The batteries are liquid-cooled rather than air-cooled.