The vehicles will operate without catenary for 60% of the 5.3km line along Woodward Avenue, drawing power from an onboard energy storage system which utilises 750v lithium-ion batteries. The LRVs will also operate in catenary-free mode around the line's depot.

The 20.3m-long vehicles will accommodate up to 125 passengers, 32 of them seated, and will be equipped with four 99kW ac traction motors.

Construction began last July on the $US 140m project, which is claimed to be the first public-private partnership deal to be funded by private businesses and philanthropic organisations, in partnership with local, state and federal governments.

The line from Larned Street to West Grand Boulevard is due to open at the end of next year and will serve Detroit's largest employment centres and most-visited destinations including the city's business, educational, medical, cultural and entertainment hubs. Ridership is forecast at between 5000 and 8000 passengers per day.