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CHRYSLER ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR NATURAL GAS-POWERED VERSION OF ITS POPULAR MINIVANS

 AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Feb. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Chrysler Corporation (NYSE: C) today announced plans to produce a natural gas-powered version of its popular 7-passenger minivans for sale as early as January 1994. The natural gas minivan is being developed under a cooperative agreement with Gas Research Institute and Southern California Gas Co.
 Earlier this month, the California Air Resources Board certified the full-size 1993 Dodge Ram Van and Wagon, powered by compressed natural gas, as the cleanest vehicle ever produced. In fact, the natural gas Ram ?and Wagons, which went into production in March 1992, meet California's stringent Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) requirement five years ahead of schedule.
 "A key feature of our minivan development program will be the use of fuel injection technology already in production in our natural gas full- size vans and wagons," said Christopher P. Theodore, general manager- Minivan Platform Engineering, in a press conference at the Chrysler Technology Center. "The electronically controlled fueling system will be adapted to our 3.3-liter V-6 minivan engine to achieve the same dramatic emissions results of our natural gas Ram Van and Ram Wagon."
 Chrysler is taking the next step in natural gas vehicle development because natural gas, used in conjunction with today's advanced internal combustion fuel control technology, provides a viable alternative to electrically powered vehicles.
 "As we continue our development of electric vehicles with delivery of a 50-vehicle fleet of Dodge Caravan Electric models beginning this spring," said Theodore, "we also are pursuing the practical advantages of natural gas to power a traditional piston engine vehicle which provides comparable emissions to electrics."
 The natural gas Chrysler minivans will probably enter the market first in fleets that have access to central refueling facilities. These early markets include gas utility fleets, delivery vans and shuttle vehicles.
 "With the success of the Ram Van as a foundation to build on, the Chrysler minivan represents the initial step into second-generation natural gas vehicles produced by the auto industry," said Stephen D. Ban, president and CEO of Gas Research Institute. "This is indicative of how rapidly we are moving ahead to bring optimized natural gas vehicles into the market.
 "We believe there will be more than 1 million natural gas vehicles on the road by the end of the decade and almost 5 million by 2010," Ban added.
 Chrysler hopes the natural gas minivans serve as a catalyst to the further development of the natural gas infrastructure for convenient use by retail customers.
 "Chrysler minivans have been the perfect everyday, family vehicles throughout the United States for 10 years," said Theodore. "We hope our partners at Gas Research Institute and Southern California Gas continue their efforts to make natural gas vehicles a viable, economical and clean alternative to these customers."
 "The infrastructure for fueling natural gas vehicles is developing rapidly," said Jack Smith, Southern California Gas Co.'s natural gas vehicle marketing manager. "Across the country more than 600 fueling stations already have been installed and approximately three new stations are being opened each week.
 "In the Los Angeles area, where the quality of air is the poorest in the nation, we will have more than 50 natural gas fueling stations installed by the end of this year," said Smith. "Our plans call for us to open one new station every 10 days for at least the next four years."
 The Chrysler minivans, like the natural gas Dodge Ram Vans and Wagons, will be covered by Chrysler's full-factory warranty. Production volume in the 1994 model year has not been established. However, according to Theodore, Chrysler will build natural gas minivans according to market demand.
 COST, EMISSIONS AND PERFORMANCE
 Chrysler has analyzed the various economic, environmental and performance attributes of natural gas and electricity, this country's two cleanest fuels.
 "On a fully accounted basis, the cost of purchasing and operating natural gas vehicles is projected to be 16 percent less than electric vehicles, in the 1998-2003 time frame," said Richard O. Schaum, executive engineer Minivan Platform Powertrain Engineering.
 "In terms of emissions, both natural gas and electric vehicles are very clean," said Schaum. "Generally, electric vehicles have lower hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions than natural gas vehicles.
 "However," Schaum added, "natural gas vehicles exhibit significantly lower NOx (oxides of Nitrogen) emissions than electric vehicles operated on electricity generated from the 'U.S. national average' power plant composition expected later in this decade."
 That electric power plant composition is projected to include 55 percent coal, 13 percent natural gas, 5 percent oil and 27 percent "other" such as nuclear and hydroelectric.
 Performance of natural gas and electric vehicles differs significantly. Prototype Chrysler natural gas minivans accelerate from 0-50 mph in about 10.3 seconds, have a top speed of more than 100 mph and have similar driving and operating characteristics to their gasoline-powered counterparts. The current production versions of the Dodge Caravan Electric minivans, equipped with a DC motor, accelerate from 0-50 mph in about 27 seconds, have a top speed of 65 mph and have different driving and operating characteristics than gasoline-powered minivans.
 "Chrysler remains fuel neutral," concluded Schaum. "We're trying to find the best alternative fuel vehicles for the transportation needs of our customers throughout this country in the coming years. The bottom line is that Chrysler will continue to use its engineering expertise to develop the best vehicles it can and we'll let our customers decide which fuel works best for them."
 Gas Research Institute, a not-for-profit research and development organization that works on behalf of the natural gas industry and its customers, is researching a broad range of vehicles currently in fleet use, as well as applying new technology to natural gas end use, supply and operations.
 Southern California Gas Co. is the nation's largest natural gas distribution company with more than 4.6 million customers.
 -0- 2/25/93
 /CONTACT: Jason Vines, 313-576-8095, or Chris Hosford, 313-576-8094, both of Chrysler; Scott Schaedel of Gas Research Institute, 312-399-8128; or Denise King of Southern California Gas, 213-244-2548/
 (C)


CO: Chrysler Corporation; Gas Research Institute;
 Southern California Gas Co. ST: Michigan IN: AUT UTI SU:


ML-DH -- DE006 -- 0284 02/25/93 10:01 EST
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Date:Feb 25, 1993
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