Chrysler Electric Vehicles
The initial prototypes include the Dodge EV, which is a fully electric vehicle based on a Lotus Europa that has been modified structurally for the technology (do all EVs now have to be built from Lotuses?). The two-seater has a range of 150 to 200 miles on electricity alone (it has a 268-hp electric-drive motor to drive the wheels, a lithium-ion battery system, and a controller to manage energy flow) and a claimed 0-to-60-mph time of less than five seconds, but has a top speed of only 100 mph at this point, with 120 expected when it goes into production. Recharging takes eight hours when plugged into a 110-volt household outlet, or half the time with 220 volts.
The other two prototypes are existing Chrysler vehicles that have been electrified and are what the industry calls “extended-range” electric vehicles in that they can go 40 miles on electricity but have small gasoline engines to extend that range to about 400 miles, à la Chevrolet Volt. One is a Jeep Wrangler, with full off-road capability, a 268-hp motor, and a gas tank to hold the 10 gallons of gasoline it needs for the extended range. The other concept is a Chrysler Town & Country with a two-cylinder gas engine and 255-hp motor, with a nine-gallon tank and the battery pack nestled into the bins of the Stow ’Go system.
EV Phone Home
“One of these will be produced for consumers in 2010, ” says Chrysler chairman Bob Nardelli. Neither he nor vice chairman and president Tom LaSorda will say which one it will be. While the Dodge would make the biggest splash—similar to the Chevy Volt concept when it debuted—the Jeep or minivan would be easier to do. The Dodge also differs from the Tesla (also Lotus-based) in that it is designed to be a volume vehicle.
While the execs are mum on which is first, all three will eventually be on the road and the automaker is working on a full portfolio of EVs and extended-range vehicles for all three brands. LaSorda says development of all three is running parallel.
LaSorda also says work on the EVs began prior to Cerberus purchasing the automaker, and that they were Chrysler-engineered—not Daimler—from the start. More than a year ago Chrysler created a skunkworks known as ENVI dedicated to creating electric vehicles.
“We’re well ahead of where the industry thought we were, ” said LaSorda, “perhaps because we haven’t tooted our horn until now, ” he says, in an obvious swipe at the hype generated by the Volt, which is due in November 2010. He says being the little guy does not mean Chrysler won’t be aggressive and take risks. While he admits the cars are reactionary, now that they are drivable prototypes, he says “we think today people will react to what we do.”