AUBURN HILLS — The data-collection phase of Chrysler Group LLC’s plug-in hybrid minivan project begins in earnest with the completion of the demonstration fleet’s deployment.

Three plug-in hybrid-electric Chrysler Town & Country minivans went into service today with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, bringing to 25 the total number of such vehicles on American roads.

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“The focus now shifts from engineering design and development of this unique technology, to real-world testing and evaluation,” said Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of Chrysler Group’s advanced hybrid vehicle project.

The plug-in hybrids will be subjected to “temperature extremes and variations of drive cycles,” Bazzi said, adding resulting data will shed light on customer acceptance of the technology and its impact on the grid.

Other deployments are in Arizona, North Carolina and Michigan.

Two additional plug-in hybrid minivans will be retained by Chrysler Group engineers. One of those vehicles will be subject to a short-duration test by Argonne National Laboratory.

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The two-year project stems from Chrysler Group’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE has invested $10 million to further the research.

Each plug-in hybrid Town & Country is equipped with an E85-compatible 3.6L Pentastar engine mated to a front-wheel-drive, two-mode hybrid transmission.

It also is powered by a liquid-cooled 12.1 KWhr lithium-ion battery that affords a total output of 290 horsepower and a range of 700-miles. Charge times are two-to-four hours at 220 volts with a “Level 2” charge cord unit, and eight-to-15 hours at 110 volts with a “Level 1” charge unit.

The vehicle’s hybrid system does not require charging.

A fleet of plug-in hybrid Ram pickups also is being evaluated as part of a wider project.

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Chrysler Group dominates the minivan market, selling 13.4 million units globally since inventing the segment in 1983.