AutoNation Inc., the largest auto dealer network in the U.S., says it will begin taking “soft orders” for plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs).

The order will be made in conjunction with Plug-In Partners, a PHEV advocacy group.

The move is mostly symbolic, as soft orders are described as “a commitment from an individual, business or unit of government to purchase a PHEV once they become commercially available.”

PHEVs, like traditional hybrids, would recharge their batteries through onboard generators and friction energy recovered from braking.

However, they have the added benefit of having batteries that can be recharged by plugging them into a 120-volt household power outlet, greatly expanding the vehicle’s range in electric-only mode and saving additional fuel.

“The development of plug-in hybrids could reduce America’s addiction to oil,” says AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson in a statement.

“These new hybrids would offer consumers a 50-mile (80-km) all-electric range, get the equivalent of 100 mpg (2.4 L/100 km), can be fully recharged at night and deliver all the performance and comfort of traditional gasoline-powered vehicles without the damaging emissions.

“We believe Americans will buy these vehicles, which is why we want to sell them,” he says.

bpope@wardsauto.com