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EPIC electric minivan
If the only way to get your hands on a DaimlerChrysler EPIC electric minivan is to claim you operate a fleet, then that's you have to do.

An EPIC Journey Begins

California convenience food entrepreneur refuses to drive anything"Plain Jane"

By Rudy Gaytan

A couple of days ago, when I mentioned that I'd share information regarding the EPIC, I asked the Dodge dealer if he would let me try out the demo overnight. Here is the preliminary "dry run" impression. By the way, we've test driven the EPIC 4 times now. And I love more each time.

Four people from our company went for a short test drive. The initial reaction with the drivers is to "get on it" to see how much power it doesn't have. Actually, we were all impressed, expecting it to be very sluggish. Nothing as powerful as the EV-1 we test drove last week.

Our toughest driver, has a hard acceleration, hard braking type of driving. Three miles of that type of driving in city traffic made a noticeable change on the SOC gauge. However, we all agreed that is would be a desirable vehicle to own, were it not for the steep lease rate of $450 plus tax per month for 36 months.

However, the EPIC lease has no limit on total miles driven during the lease period, an important detail that I have not personally confirmed. Now that makes it viable over any other EV lease. Especially when compared to the 1999 EV-1 that I "signed-up" for, that has a $499 + tax lease, with a 10,000 per year mile restriction!

The EPIC is delivered with front bucket seats, and only one rear seat (no middle seat with arm rests), which can be placed in a wide range of positions, with a 3' range of adjustment. It folds, it is removable, and makes the EPIC quite a versatile vehicle, and that is why we ordered two vehicles. I think that you could add another seat, but I understand it would be a violation of the use of the vehicle's lease terms.

All the 1999 EPIC's are a "plain Jane" short wheel base Dodge Caravan. White exterior, gray cloth interior, with simple but good AM/FM stereo Tape deck unit. BUT GET THIS: NO POWER WINDOWS, NO POWER MIRRORS, AND NO CRUISE CONTROL. They are all identical, except for the optional huge stickers that announce "Yes, its.....ELECTRIC!" And that is how we ordered ours. I don't drive a plain anything.

The only negative comment universally mentioned was the lack of power windows. And always of course, the lack of "REAL" range. However, we studied our driving habits, and the EPIC will fill 95% of all our driving needs. Level III chargers will eliminate further reservation, along with the longer range. But everyone with EV savvy knows this.

I am personally an S-Class Mercedes or big 4 X 4 pick up truck driver. Yet, I am wooed by the idea of EPIC because it gives me the feeling that I am beating the gasoline habit. However, a simple study proves that I am giving my saved gasoline money to Chrysler Financial. The simple study shows that if I paid $1.50 per gallon of gas, and drove 2,000 miles per month at 20 mpg consuming 100 gallons, I'd be spending $150 dollars. The EPIC's comparable gasoline model would probably not cost anywhere near $300 per month, but rather under $250. And I'd not have to mess with chargers, or worry about range. BUT IT WOULD NOT BE AS FUN!

Two things that attract me to EV's, and EPIC in particular: I am a cutting edge, yet practical sort of person when it comes to advanced technology. EPIC has it just about covered, except for this conductive connection that would otherwise make it Honda EV Plus compatible. In my area of Los Angeles County, only EV-1 and Honda EV Plus vehicle chargers are readily available. I must now rely on other Dodge dealers for out of area chargers. I understand that we will get a list of charger dealers, and an ever expanding infrastructure.

I ordered the highest input voltage charger available, since I expect my factory to be my center of radius driving. We've asked for a 480 volt 3 phase charger, however, I understand that the highest input voltage charger available is 240 V 3 Ph. I expect the second EPIC to arrive with a 240 V 1 Ph charger for residential use, to give us greater flexibility.

A couple of final notes. I wished that the power steering pump would be quieter, so that the feeling of absolute quiet like the EV-1 and the EV-Plus associated with EV's would be part of the evolution of EPIC. The initial key insertion and start up of the vehicle was a chore for me. I did it like a forklift, just turned the key on. Then I tried to "start" it, and still no cigar. Turns out that DamlierChrysler added a gasoline vehicle type of start system to make the transition to electric seamless. I have to tell you, that was the only thing, that I did not understand how to do after more than 10 attempts during the 24 hour trial period. I was the only one with that problem!

I have to tell you that with OPEC causing the increase in price at the gas pump to $2 in my area, I've already beat the system. I expect to drive EPIC 3,000 miles per month. I live 11 miles from work, and drive a total of 100 spread throughout day, with short radiuses from my work: PERFECT FOR ME.

Hope this gives you a birds eye impression of the experience I've had with just one day with EPIC. I wished it was on the Chrysler Citadel platform. Wow!

I will follow up in a couple of weeks, giving you a blow by blow report on our delivery, and hands-on use experience when we finally take delivery of our own vehicle in a few days.

Times Article Viewed: 6231
Published: 01-Jan-2000

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