DaimlerChrysler AG says it will continue its development of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles with the all-new ’07 Dodge Sprinter, with plans to put up to 20 of the vehicles in fleet-test programs between now and first-quarter 2008.

Four of those, based on the previous-generation Sprinter, already are in operation with fleet customers.

A number of the Sprinter test vehicles will be equipped with lithium-ion batteries, which auto makers believe hold the best near-term potential for bringing PHEVs to market.

“For plug-in hybrid technology to move forward, a dramatic leap in battery technology is necessary,” says Mark Chernoby, vice president-Advance Vehicle Engineering for Chrysler Group. “The energy storage systems in the Dodge Sprinter PHEV concept fleet will provide valuable field experience on the possibilities with lithium-ion battery technology.”

The Sprinter PHEV can travel up to 20 miles (32 km) on electric-only power. A dashboard switch allows the driver to put the vehicle in electric-only mode if so desired. DC will fleet-test the vehicles with both diesel and gasoline internal-combustion engines.