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 LOS ANGELES, Jan. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Show-goers at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show will be among the "first on their block" to drive an advanced battery electric vehicle.
 As part of its continuing focus on gathering customer feedback on its electric vehicle, Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) will invite the general public to test drive its Ecostar electric vehicle.
 Auto show-goers will fill out entry blanks at Ford's Ecostar display. One winner will be selected in an hourly drawing. The winners will take Ford's Ecostar for a "real world" drive out on the streets of Los Angeles. Ford representatives will ask the drivers for their impressions of the vehicle's performance.
 "Ford Motor Company focuses on the customer in developing each of its vehicles," said Dennis Wilkie, director of Ford's electric vehicle segment. "This focus is paying off with five of the top-selling vehicles in the U.S. wearing Ford badges. Our electric vehicle is receiving the same focus. We believe it is the first electric vehicle that is being developed from day one to meet stringent customer requirements."
 Ford's Ecostar engineers have taken a total-system approach to electric vehicle development, using electronics and software to replace what is done mechanically in conventional vehicles. In fact, the Ecostar has more advanced electronic technology than anyone has ever put into a vehicle outside of concept cars.
 "Our electric vehicle team has worked unrelentingly to develop a technically excellent product," Wilkie said. "We are confident that we have developed a vehicle that has set a new standard for achievement in electric vehicle technology."
 Although the Ecostar remains a test vehicle, it has gone through the same rigorous development and production process as any dealership-bound Ford car or truck.
 Ford is building 105 Ecostars, and is delivering 81 on a lease basis to customers in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Europe, as part of a program to put the company's advanced electric vehicle technology to the test.
 The Ecostar is based on Ford's European Escort van, a small, front- wheel-drive delivery vehicle. It was chosen for Ford's demonstration electric vehicle program because of its utility -- with its open rear cargo area and 900-pound payload capacity. It is a useful workhorse with a great deal of appeal to commercial customers.
 "We chose a utility vehicle, not a little car or a runabout, because it is likely that the initial application for an electric vehicle is commercial customers with short, fairly predictable driving patterns," said Wilkie. "With this fleet evaluation program, we will be able to gather significantly better understanding of an electric vehicle's suitability for this purpose."
 In addition, Ecostar's advanced sodium-sulfur battery delivers a driving range of more than 100 miles between charges -- that's three times the range of a conventional lead-acid battery in this vehicle. Developing battery technology with a reasonable driving range, acceptable cost and long-enough life remains the single-greatest obstacle to making electric vehicles acceptable to buyers.
 "Ford's Ecostar is the most advanced electric vehicle built to date worldwide because of its advanced battery," Wilkie said. "We still need to find answers to a lot of questions, especially whether battery technology will develop quickly enough to meet customer requirements. But we are proud to offer our vehicle to the general public for their appraisal."
 Drawings to drive Ford's Ecostar will be held at the auto show from Saturday, Jan. 8, through Sunday, Jan. 16 as follows: hourly Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m.; hourly Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.; and at 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
 -0- 1/7/94
 /CONTACT: Pam Kueber, 313-337-2456, or John Clinard, 714-939-3698, both of Ford/

CO: Ford Motor Company ST: California IN: AUT ENV SU:

KT -- DE029 -- 0304 01/07/94 17:50 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 7, 1994

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