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Auburn Hills gets four electric minivans

by Bill Cawthon on

Chrysler delivered four Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Chrysler Town & Country minivans to its hometown of Auburn Hills, Michigan. Like the Ram pickups previously delivered to the city, the minivans are on loan part of a two-year demonstration project that is part of a partnership between Chrysler Group and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Chrysler is investing $15.8 million into the project and the U.S. Department of Energy is contributing $10 million. Only 25 test vehicles will be created, according to Abdullah A. Bazzi, Senior Manager of Electrified Power Train Programs for Chrysler Group.

“This Town & Country minivan is the only minivan to boast a plug-in hybrid powertrain in combination with flex fuel capability,” says Bazzi. “We’re pleased to have four of these 25 vehicles being tested right here in Chrysler’s backyard where they can get real-world use and be evaluated promptly.”

Auburn Hills will use the minivans to evaluate everyday city and highway driving. City employees that use the vehicles will regularly report all driving and charging experiences back to Chrysler. City Manager Pete Auger says it is an honor for the City to participate in this demonstration project.

“Chrysler has been an outstanding corporate citizen of Auburn Hills and we are privileged to be participating in the evaluation of these vehicles,” says Auger.

As part of the program, each vehicle will receive one Level II EVSE charging station, which will be installed at the Civic Center Campus on North Squirrel and the Auburn Hills Department of Public Services Building on Brown Road. The city will pay for the actual installation of the charging stations and will retain them after the project is complete.

The agreement between Chrysler Group and the City anticipates approximately 16,800 miles will be driven on each demonstration vehicle. While the city will pay for routine maintenance, Chrysler will be responsible for any repairs that may be required as part of the testing process. Auger notes that employees assigned the vehicles have been recognized for their outstanding work efforts.

“When you see these specially marked Chrysler minivans on the road, you can be assured that they are being driven by City of Auburn Hills employees who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to their jobs, the residents and the entire Auburn Hills community,” affirms Auger.

In July 2011, Auburn Hills became the first municipality in Michigan to adopt an electric vehicle infrastructure ordinance to facilitate the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. The ordinance sets the stage for the City to become a leader in incorporating electric vehicles into its community and economic development plans. In October 2011, Chrysler Group LLC delivered four PHEV Ram 1500 pickup trucks to the City of Auburn Hills as part of a national, three-year demonstration program for evaluation and testing of the trucks by the City’s Community Development, Police and Public Services Departments.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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