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Monday, December 28, 2009

Ford Plans to Start Electric-Car Tests in Germany Next Month

Ford Motor Co. will start a two-year test program of electric Focus compact cars and Transit vans in Germany on Jan. 4 as the U.S. company prepares to introduce battery-powered models as early as next year.

The 25 vehicles will be driven under normal traffic conditions in Cologne, where Ford’s European division is based, said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at Germany’s University of Duisburg-Essen, which is overseeing the 15 million-euro ($22 million) study.

The drivers will include researchers and customers selected by Ford, Dudenhoeffer said today in a telephone interview. Data from the models will be monitored on computers that can simulate testing of more than 10,000 vehicles, he said.

Bernd Meier, a spokesman for Ford in Cologne, said the study is the automaker’s first in mainland Europe. The company is already trying out battery-powered vehicles in London, Meier said.

Ford, the first U.S. automaker to offer a hybrid model, said on Dec. 8 that it may spend $300 million to $500 million on factories in its home state of Michigan to build electric vehicles and batteries. The Dearborn-based company has a target of rolling out an electric-powered version of the Transit Connect commercial van next year, followed by an electric Focus in 2011.

Local utility RheinEnergie AG will supply vehicle-charging stations for the test, which is being financed by the German government’s economic-stimulus package, Dudenhoeffer said.

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