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Azure Dynamics, Ford Motor Tap Xcel Energy

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The Minnesota utility Xcel Energy and a coalition of its customers have been selected to be among the first in the country to receive the all-electric Ford Transit Connect Electric commercial van.

Azure Dynamics Corp., a hybrid electric and electric power train developer based on Oak Park, has named Xcel Energy to its “Lead Customer” program to receive a total of 13 vans.

An initial van will be delivered in late 2010 with the remaining 12 vans scheduled for delivery in 2011.

The Ford Transit Connect Electric is a collaborative effort between Ford Motor Co. and Azure and reflects the increasing interest in electrified vehicles for the commercial sector.

Xcel Energy, an electricity and natural gas company, will add two of the 13 vans into its corporate fleet. The company will also provide $20,000 grants from its Chairman’s Fund to support the purchase of 11 additional Ford Transit Connect Electric vans for its project partners. These partners will agree to invest the remaining cost to take delivery of each van.

Said Dick Kelly, Xcel Energy chairman and CEO: “The Ford Transit Connect Electric is a significant technological achievement in electric transportation, and we want our company and key partners to be among the first to experience this new technology and to help promote it within the communities we serve.”

The Chairman’s Fund is provided through Xcel Energy shareholders, and supports innovative community projects that advance, demonstrate or promote clean energy technologies. Xcel Energy will help fund the vehicles for a number of municipalities, government agencies and businesses that wish to purchase the vehicles and demonstrate the technology.

The city of Saint Paul, Minn., is expected to receive the first pre-production Ford Transit Connect Electric in late 2010. The company is finalizing agreements with others eligible to participate, including the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County in Minnesota, and the city of Arvada and the city of Denver in Colorado. All vehicles will be delivered by year-end 2011. Xcel Energy is also providing technical support and some electric distribution infrastructure to support the effort.

“Azure’s experience with electric vehicles spans more than 20 years and millions of miles driven,” said Scott Harrison, Azure Dynamics CEO. “Still, we understand that the overall electric vehicle market is in its infancy, and we believe strong partnerships with energy producers like Xcel Energy can lead to important developments for both sides. For this reason, we’re thrilled to welcome Xcel Energy to the Ford Transit Connect Electric lead customer program and are appreciative of its support in getting our product into the hands of several of its noteworthy customers.”

To create the Ford Transit Connect Electric, Azure Dynamics integrates its ForceDrive electric drive train into the body of a Ford Transit Connect, the global commercial van platform that received the 2010 North American Truck of the Year award.

“The Ford Transit Connect Electric is the first of five electrified vehicles we will launch over the next three years,” said Nancy Gioia, director of global electrification at Ford. “Through our partnership with Azure Dynamics, the Ford Transit Connect Electric will allow businesses like Xcel Energy to operate more environmentally-friendly while reducing its need for gasoline.”

Commercial van users often have predictable, short-range routes with frequent stop-and-go driving and high idle time; these are all performance characteristics that allow for maximum benefit of the Ford Transit Connect Electric and its ForceDrive powertrain.

The Ford Transit Connect Electric uses an advanced lithium-ion battery from Johnson Controls-Saft to achieve a range of up to 80 miles on a single charge and is rechargeable using either a 240-volt or standard 120-volt outlet. Commercial vans generally return to a central location at the end of each driving cycle making for easy overnight recharging. Use of the vehicles will also reduce fuel and maintenance costs, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

More at www.azuredynamics.com, www.xcelenergy.com or www.ford.com.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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