DaimlerChrysler and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive & Armaments Command (TACOM) - National Automotive Center (NAC) will develop a military version of the environment-friendly Dodge Ram HEV hybrid electric pickup truck.

The vehicle will slot into the Army's Commercially Based Tactical Truck (COMBATT) programme and the project should be completed by April 2002.

The hybrid vehicle will be based on the 2002 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup equipped with a diesel-electric powertrain. The vehicle can be operated in either diesel-electric hybrid or electric-only mode.

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When parked, the powertrain can be used to provide up to 20 kW of continuous electrical power to operate electrical equipment at remote sites.

DaimlerChrysler sees the hybrid technology as an ideal way to meet the off-site electrical generating capacity needs of construction contractors, farmers and campers and has already announced plans to sell the Ram HEV commercially from 2004.

The hybrid will be available in 1500 and 2500 models with either two-wheel or four-wheel drive and equipped with different diesel and petrol engines.

The electric motor provides power assist of 55 kW, or about 74 horsepower, while the hybrid powertrain also improves fuel efficiency by up to 20 percent while producing fewer exhaust emissions.

At remote locations, the vehicle's hybrid components can be converted into a stationary electrical generator capable of delivering up to 30 kW peak power or 20 kW continuous power.

The additional components add 250-300 pounds to the vehicle's weight, compared with 2,500 pounds or more for a comparable conventional generator.

The Ram HEV's generator is accessed through electrical connections in a pull-down box located behind the cab in the side of the pickup box.

The Army version will use several of the Ram HEV's features including an on-board battery capacity enabling a stealth operating mode and silent watch capability.