September 23, 2008

Chrysler unveils 3 EV prototypes, will enter EV market by 2010

A few weeks after this blog set sail, I wrote at length about the difficulties Chrysler would face and the cause for concern that majority owner Cerberus Capital Management would simply dismantle the company and sell it off piecemeal.

While the storm clouds have yet to fully part, today's announcement is precisely the type of good news the market has waited months to hear.

After a brief preview on CNBC yesterday, Chrysler LLC unveiled a trio of electric vehicle prototypes this morning.

* The Dodge EV, an all-electric sports car developed with British automaker Lotus.
* The Chrysler EV, an extended-range electric vehicle based on the Chrysler Town & Country minivan.
* The Jeep EV, an extended-range electric vehicle based on the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

Chrysler said it would bring one of the three prototypes to market in 2010 -- precisely when Chevrolet will start selling the Volt plug-in electric sedan.

The Dodge EV sports coupe — based off the Lotus Europa — takes direct aim at the Tesla roadster, relying on a 26 killowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack to power the car's electric drivetrain. Chrysler claims a driving range of 150 to 200 miles and a 0-60 time under 5 seconds.

The Chrysler EV and Jeep EV both use a drivetrain similar in concept to that of the Volt. Electric power drives the wheels at all speeds. When the on-board battery is depleted, a small gasoline engine drives a generator to simultaneously recharge the battery pack and power the vehicle's electric motor. An AC-to-DC converter is included to allow overnight charging via a 110 or 220-volt power outlet.

Chrysler chose the Town & Country minivan as the benchmark vehicle for developing a front-wheel-drive setup, while the Jeep Wrangler was used to explore use of an electric drivetrain in a body-on-frame SUV.

And lest the idea of an electric-powered trail-blazing SUV sound preposterous, think for a moment of the advantages. Instant torque at zero rpm from an engine that doesn't mind which way it's oriented. No noise for your spotter to shout instructions over.

And the fuel savings are substantial. Chrysler claims that with approximately eight gallons of gasoline, both EVs have a range of 400 miles, including 40 miles of zero fuel-consumption, zero-emissions, all-electric operation.

The end goal of Chrysler's EV program is to build a "plug-n-play" electric-gasoline drivetrain that can be offered across the entire Chrysler range.

To that end, Chrysler has launched a new web site to spread the word on the company's electric and extended range electric vehicle development programs. Seeing as how Chrysler is ostensibly betting the company's future on electric power, we'll be keeping a close eye on future developments.

[Sources: Chrysler LLC, CNBC, AN, AO, MT]

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