March 28, 2007

DaimlerChrysler opens Sprinter plant in South Carolina, steps up Sprinter plug-in hybrid plan

Stuttgart, Germany – The DaimlerChrysler plant in Ladson, just outside Charleston, South Carolina, has officially kicked off production of the Sprinter for the American market under the Dodge and Freightliner brands.

The Sprinter has been assembled and offered for sale in the U.S. since 2001, but its former plant in Gaffney, S.C., with an annual capacity of 22,000 units, could not cope with growing demand. The new plant employs 180 workers and represents an investment of US$35 million.

DaimlerChrysler is also including the 2007 Sprinter in its concept plug-in hybrid program; up to 20 Sprinter Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) will be placed in the U.S. between now and the first quarter of 2008, as part of a test fleet. Four of the vehicles, built on the previous-generation Sprinter, are already placed with customers.

Lithium-ion holds the greatest promise for battery technology, and a number of the Sprinter PHEVs will be equipped with lithium-ion batteries that are about half the weight and have much greater storage capacities when compared with nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Plug-in technology lends itself to commercial applications where the vehicle returns to base after each shift to be plugged into the power grid. The Sprinter PHEV has the ability to drive up to 32 km (20 miles) on electric-only power, with a dash-mounted switch that gives the operator the ability to manually switch between two modes as needed, or automatically by the vehicle control system. The Sprinter PHEV is being tested with diesel and gasoline engines.

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