From: Thuy-Doan Le, Sacramento Bee
Published July 20, 2005 12:00 AM

Ford Shedding Electric Trucks

Drivers who formerly leased an electric-powered Ford Ranger truck will have a chance to purchase one for $6,000 in a lottery system this fall, Ford Motor Co. said Monday.

Current lease owners will be able to purchase their vehicles -- as is, with no warranty -- for a dollar.

The plan is in response to public protests that Ford was discontinuing the program and sending the trucks to the scrap heap after the lease.

"A very small, but committed group of people ... love these vehicles," said Niel Golightly, director of sustainable business strategies for Ford.

In January, Ford agreed to sell two of the electric-powered trucks to a pair of California drivers who refused to return their leased vehicles because the carmaker had intended to scrap them.

With the help of San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange, a human rights group, a handful of supporters staged a protest at Downtown Ford.

The company said it eventually allowed the two Californians to purchase their vehicles for a dollar. Since then, Ford made "a commitment not to scrap any more vehicles," Golightly said.

The protest demonstrated that a "small group of dedicated people have the power to turn around one of the world's largest corporations," said Jennifer Krill, zero emissions campaign director with the Rainforest Action Network.

Ford began leasing its electric trucks in the late 1990s, intending it as a short-term project with prototypes being returned at the end of each lease. The company is now focusing on hybrid gas-electric vehicles and hydrogen-based vehicles.

About 20 people have chosen to purchase the vehicle for $1, said Golightly, who expects to have about 200 vehicles available for the lottery.

"The batteries have been degraded somewhat, and some of these vehicles need a lot of work," he said.

Buyers will not be able to choose the color or battery type. If interested, former leaseholders must submit their information by Aug. 31. for a Sept. 23 drawing. Company officials said information will go out this week to ex-leaseholders on how to register.

A Web site is under construction at www.rangerevlottery. com.

Worth an estimated $16,000, the Ford Ranger EVs will be sold for $6,000 each to cover transportation and refurbishing the vehicle and battery, the company said. Most of the work will be handled by Sacramento-based Battery M.D. Inc. The EV's batteries, which typically run for about five years, could cost thousands of dollars to replace.

Kitty Rodden, president and founder of Battery M.D., said her company has done battery pack repair for high voltage cars for all the major U.S. automakers.

"We're going to refurbish these cars using older parts and batteries, but we're going to bring them up to like-new condition," she said. "Once the car comes back into the custody of Ford, it must meet all safety standards, and with the electric vehicles, the batteries were not doing well."

Because of Ford's new plan, Rodden started up another branch called Blue Sky Motors to sell the electric vehicles.

Rodden said she could understand passion for the cars.

"I've personally designed a few electric vehicles, and with no noise and no pollution, you feel like you're doing your part for the environment," she said.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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