DaimlerChrysler Corporation has expanded its lineup of zero emission vehicles by purchasing the assets and business of Global Electric MotorCars, LLC (GEM) of Fargo, North Dakota. Specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

GEM is the largest producer in the United States of electric vehicles that can be licensed for use on public roads. With the purchase, DaimlerChrysler becomes the first major automaker to sell Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) in the United States.

Marketing NEVs is part of DaimlerChrysler's continuing effort to develop, produce and sell the world's most environmentally-friendly vehicles.

GEM was established in 1997 and will produce more than 5,000 vehicles this year. It offers a product lineup that includes two-passenger and four- passenger models, as well as two utility vehicles. DaimlerChrysler's NEV operations will be conducted through a wholly owned subsidiary.

NEVs have a maximum speed of 25 mph and are certified for operation on roads posted at 35 mph or less. Thirty-two states presently have approved the use of NEVs, and the State of California certifies the vehicles as Zero Emission Vehicles.

The market for NEVs continues to grow. NEVs are currently in use at military bases, resorts, university campuses, and in planned communities, industrial settings, and cities.

"NEVs could have an impact in reducing overall emissions from automobiles because they would typically be used for the most polluting trips -- starting a cold vehicle for a short drive," said Susan M. Cischke, Senior Vice President - Regulatory Affairs and Passenger Car Operations. "Substituting NEVs for conventional vehicles on short trips would reduce cold start emissions to zero."

In addition to emission free driving, NEVs offer an affordable alternative in appropriate settings. The vehicles are equipped with front-wheel drive, four-wheel hydraulic brakes, safety glass windshield with wiper, and seat belts. Other standard features are headlights, high-mounted brake lights and turn signals. The vehicles stand as tall as a minivan and thus are highly visible in traffic. They carry a 12-month bumper-to-bumper warranty.

GEM vehicles can drive at street speeds up to 25 mph or can be switched to 15 mph for turf use. Tires are rated for both street and turf. The vehicles can be recharged in about eight hours using a household 110-volt a/c connection. Fast charge capability is being developed for these vehicles.

GEM vehicles complement the EPIC, the battery-electric version of the Dodge Caravan minivan that DaimlerChrysler has sold in California and New York states for the past three years. In addition, DaimlerChrysler has developed clean, efficient internal combustion engines, hybrid electric and fuel cell electric vehicles and other advanced technologies to reduce emissions, increase fuel efficiency and thus reduce the impact of the automobile on the environment. A city car may be considered as a future product.

"DaimlerChrysler is a leader in the development of environmentally friendly vehicles. With GEM, we have added one more asset to our environmental portfolio," said Tom Gale, Executive Vice President - Product Development & General Manager - Passenger Car Operations.

SOURCE: DaimlerChrysler Corporation