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 DETROIT, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Detroit Edison (NYSE: DTE) today charged up its first Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) "Ecostar" -- representing a new generation of electric vehicles that could alter America's driving habits in the 21st century.
 Detroit Edison, which will have the only commercial fleet of the Ford Ecostar electric vans in Michigan, will lease nine additional vehicles over the next several months for testing and evaluation purposes.
 "The knowledge gained from real-world test conditions will help Ford, and the automotive industry overall, develop an environmentally sound, reliable, energy-efficient electric vehicle for the future," said John E. Lobbia, Detroit Edison chairman and chief executive officer, who accepted the keys from John P. McTague, Ford's vice president of Technical Affairs. The delivery took place at Troy Ford, the authorized dealer to provide service and maintenance to the Ecostar.
 The utility and five other fleet customers across the country took possession of the delivery vans as part of the automaker's 30-month national demonstration program. Deliveries also took place in Chicago, San Francisco, Sacramento, Calif., Los Angeles and Frederick, Md.
 Detroit Edison will sublease six of the vehicles to commercial businesses for use in delivery or light maintenance services. The utility will use three of the vehicles for internal use such as deliveries, and retain one for demonstration purposes.
 "I'm optimistic that the partnership between Detroit Edison, Ford Motor Co. and Troy Ford will stimulate strategies and ideas that will make this technology economically viable for both commercial and personal use by the end of this century," Lobbia said.
 Detroit Edison has installed state-of-the-art electric charging stations at some of its facilities and parking lots to accommodate the Ecostars.
 "This program also will give us an opportunity to evaluate the performance, capability and practicality of our charging stations, a crucial factor for the future success of electric vehicles," Lobbia added.
 The Ford Ecostars will be tested under actual road conditions for quality, reliability and practicality. They are the first of 81 advanced battery electric vans Ford is delivering to customers for use and testing in fleets in the United States, Europe, Canada and Mexico.
 The Ecostar features a sodium-sulfur battery that provides a range of 100 miles in city driving. Ecostar is based on the European Escort van, a small, front-wheel drive delivery vehicle. The vehicles are being assembled in the United States.
 Ford's McTague said the partnership with Detroit Edison is important for the future of electric vehicles.
 "It will give us real-world feedback on what customers think about our electric van. And it will give everyone a better understanding of electric-vehicle technology and how it's evolving," he said.
 McTague said that the Ecostar, with its open rear cargo area and 900-pound payload capacity, was chosen for this program because it is a useful "work horse" for commercial customers such as Detroit Edison.
 "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," McTague said.
 Ford asked Detroit Edison to participate in the demonstration program because of the utility's extensive experience with electric vehicle technology.
 In 1982, Detroit Edison engineers developed a unique "Park and Charge" charging station which was operated by a credit card and controlled by a small computer.
 In 1985, the company became the first U.S. utility to conduct over- the-road evaluations of mass-produced electric vehicles when it purchased six electric vans as part of a U.S. Department of Energy international evaluation program. Earlier, from 1981 to 1984, the company operated two dozen compact cars that were converted to battery power.
 The two programs, supported with funding from the Department of Energy, gave Detroit Edison more than 700,000 miles of electric vehicle experience, more than any other utility in the nation.
 -0- 11/16/93
 /CONTACT: Vanessa Waters, 313-237-7255, or Lorie N. Kessler, 313-237-8807, both of Detroit Edison/
 (DTE F)

CO: The Detroit Edison Company; Ford Motor Company ST: Michigan IN: AUT UTI SU:

ML -- DE028 -- 5146 11/16/93 13:50 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 16, 1993

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