Chrysler Corp. and the local Westinghouse Electric Corp. division have two new partners -- Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and the state of Maryland -- in their previously announced plan to develop a commercially viable electric car.
The four partners said yesterday that they have joined to form the Chesapeake Consortium to coordinate research, resources and technology to design and develop electric vehicles.
The consortium has applied for a $4 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. If the grant is approved, the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development is prepared to chip in $1 million from its "sunny day fund," which was created by the General Assembly in 1988 for extraordinary economic-development opportunities.
Joel Lee, deputy secretary of DEED, said the $1 million would be used to help the hundreds of smaller companies that serve as subcontractors to the Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group in Linthicum make the transition from military work to commercial contracts.
Westinghouse revealed its connection with Chrysler in early March. At that time, the two companies talked about a combined capital investment of about $10 million to build a pollution-free vehicle that could zip along the highway at speeds of up to 75 mph with a range of 200 miles between battery charges.
Westinghouse's role would be to supply the electric motor and the power controller. It demonstrated the technology in a Dodge Caravan minivan that engineers have been driving for months.
For its part, BG&E will evaluate the commercial acceptance of electric vehicles and study how they would be used by individuals and fleet owners, the company said.
It also will be involved in the development of the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles, including battery charging stations. It also has to determine what effect widespread use of electric cars would have on the utility's distribution system.
With the approval of the Maryland Public Service Commission, the company said, it would implement an electric rate structure and a billing system designed to stimulate the use of electric vehicles by the public.