AUBURN HILLS, MI -- Chrysler Group LLC, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), recently announced plans to deliver five demonstration fleet Ram 1500 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) pickup trucks to CenterPoint Energy's electric utility in Houston.

Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of the Chrysler Group's advanced hybrid vehicle project, will make the deliveries. The trucks are part of a national demonstration fleet of 140 vehicles that will be used during the next three years to evaluate customer usage, drive cycles, charging, thermal management, fuel economy, emissions and impact on the region's electric grid.

In addition to CenterPoint Energy, seven other partners across the United States are slated to receive vehicles for demonstration and testing purposes.

"Cities and companies have been carefully selected to help the Chrysler Group LLC collect a wide range of data," Bazzi explained "CenterPoint Energy's electric utility in Houston, noted for its hot weather, offers a combination of suburban and rural driving that is ideal as a test cycle for these vehicles. The constant charging will allow us to measure the impact on battery life and charging efficiency."

Chrysler Group has also delivered Ram 1500 PHEV trucks to the city of Yuma, Ariz., to take full advantage of hot weather and conduct thermal testing in the desert Southwest. Other cities that have received the demonstration Ram 1500 pickups include San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Boston, Mass.; Albany N.Y.; and Auburn Hills, Mich.

"We continue to develop expertise in integrating plug-in electric vehicles into the electric grid," said Debbie Korenek, vice president of marketing and sales for CenterPoint Energy. "We have worked with the automotive industry for the last five years and this demonstration project continues that effort by providing real world data on the amount of energy used, potential emissions reductions, and impacts to the utility distribution system."

CenterPoint Energy currently has six charging stations and plans to install an additional 10 stations at company facilities throughout its 5,000 square-mile electric service territory.

This is strictly a demonstration program. There are no plans for a production version of the PHEV Ram 1500 truck at this time, Chrysler said. Cities and states were selected to evaluate temperature extremes, urban traffic cycles and diverse climates and geographies.

Funding for the program is provided in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 through the Transportation Electrification Initiative sponsored by the DOE. The grant, totaling $48 million from DOE and $49.4 million from Chrysler Group LLC, was issued to develop vehicles that will be cost efficient for consumers, satisfy safety concerns of daily travel without recharging, and help reduce dependence on foreign oil.

The Chrysler Group also is developing a similar fleet of 25 Town & Country minivans with plug-in hybrid technology for demonstration and evaluation. Those vehicles will be allocated to select cities later this year.