In many ways, Chrysler has been late to the party in recent years. While others like Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, and Toyota have forged ahead with eco-friendly advanced technology vehicle programs, Chrysler has largely sat it out in favor of a more traditional road. Maybe we can chalk it up to its former life as part of DaimlerChrysler, but with that automotive marriage behind it there's no longer an excuse. And excuses are not being offered by Chrysler LLC, as evidenced by its recent introduction of not one, but three electric vehicle prototypes.
Playing catch-up wasn't always the way at Chrysler. In the early 1990s, Chrysler was on top of its alternative fuel game, with forays into virtually all of the important areas unfolding at the time from methanol and ethanol flexible-fuel vehicles to ones running on hydrogen, natural gas, and electricity. Then Chrysler seemed to all but disappear from the running, making news instead with such stylistic models as the Viper, Prowler, and 300, but with little in the way of alternative fuel vehicles beyond its GEM neighborhood electric vehicle and the occasional eco concept. Apparently, those earlier days are returning with a vengeance.
Now Chrysler has announced the coming of a production electric vehicle for the North American market. The automaker is showcasing its efforts with three prototypes - an all-electric Dodge sports car using Lotus Europa underpinnings and two range-extended electrics, a Jeep Wrangler and a Chrysler Town & Country. Chrysler says it will select one of these for production and sale to North American consumers in 2010. This will be preceded by 100 Chrysler electrics in fleet use in 2009.
All use what Chrysler says is 'production intent' technology, incorporating an electric drive motor, a motor controller to manage energy flow, and a lithium-ion battery pack. Chrysler will work with General Electric to develop batteries for the production model. It has also been reported that the automaker is in talks with battery company A123 Systems, which is separately working with GM on the Volt program and has contracts to provide its nanophosphate lithium-ion batteries for production Th!nk electric cars and BAE Systems hybrid bus powerplants. GE Energy Financial Services has invested $20 million in A123 Systems.
While Chrysler has not identified its other suppliers, photos of the Dodge sports car show the use of electric drive components from UQM Technologies (www.uqm.com), a company noted for its energy dense and high-performance electric drive motors and controllers. Specs provided by Chrysler indicate a 268 hp (200 kW) electric drive motor featuring a whopping 480 lbs-ft of torque that powers the performance electric car from 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds. Top speed is said to be 120 mph. Charging at 110 volts is accomplished in 8 hours, or 4 hours at 220 volts.
The electric vehicles are being developed in an in-house effort that's focusing on electric drive production vehicles and advanced technologies. This effort - called ENVI - is so-named by taking the first four letters of 'environmental.'