electric_car_charge.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced Tuesday a partnership that will provide the city with a fleet of 14 plug-in hybrid pickup trucks for the next three years.

The partnership between the city, the U.S. Department of Energy and Chrysler Group allows the Ram 1500 trucks to be tested by San Francisco city departments to evaluate their charging performance and fuel economy.

The trucks are part of a national fleet of 140 vehicles that are being tested in a dozen cities. The program is funded by a $48 million stimulus grant from the federal Department of Energy and a $49.4 million grant from Chrysler.

Lee said the trucks will be tested “in the most hardened way” by picking up discarded items or stray pets.

“It’s appropriate for San Francisco to do this” program because “we want to be the electric vehicle capital of the world,” Lee said.

The announcement was made Tuesday in Civic Center Plaza where all 14 of the trucks were parked.

Melanie Nutter, director of the city’s Department of the Environment, said, “I never thought I’d be at an event in San Francisco surrounded by pickup trucks.”

Nutter said replacing 14 gas-powered trucks with the plug-in hybrids will save the city about 7,000 gallons of gasoline at a cost of about $25,000 per year over the course of the three-year program, lessening the city’s annual carbon dioxide output by 91 tons.

Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of Chrysler’s advanced hybrid vehicle project, said the company had no current plans to produce the plug-in hybrid trucks on a large scale, but said the company will soon be making electric versions of its Fiat 500 vehicle for sale to the public.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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