Chrysler Corp. has signed a deal to use lead-acid batteries made by a Texas company in the electricity-powered minivans it plans to sell to meet some states' 1998 requirement for zero-emission vehicles.
But Chrysler officials said they still believe electric vehicles using the technology that now is available will be costly and difficult to sell.California, New York and Mas-sa-chusetts will require that 2 percent of the vehicles major automakers sell in the states be emissions-free starting with the 1998 model year. Cars and trucks powered by electricity are the only option that can meet that standard.
Chrysler said it will use Elec-tro-source Horizon batteries from Electrosource Inc. in Austin, Texas, in the electric minivans it builds to meet the requirements.
The automaker had hoped it would be able to use a more advanced technology, but there has been too little progress in development, said Robert Feldmaier, executive engineer for Chrysler's electric minivan program.
With the Electrosource batteries, the minivans will have a range of about 70 miles before they need recharging when driven in optimum conditions, Feldmaier said. Using accessories such as air conditioners and heaters or driving on hilly terrain will reduce that range.
"The range and cost issues continue to be our biggest concern," Feldmaier said.
Francois Castaing, Chrysler's vice president for engineering, said that until a breakthrough occurs in battery technology, specialized fleets will be the best market for electric minivans.
"The Electrosource Horizon battery is a solid indication that we're moving forward in the right direction," Castaing said. "But the reality remains that our new electric vehicle will be very expensive and will have the equivalent of a two-gallon gas tank that takes eight hours to fill on normal house electric current."
Chrysler cited studies that estimate it will cost up to $21,000 more to produce an electric vehicle than it costs to build a conventional car or truck.