The muscle cars that fueled automotive passion in the 1960s were wildly popular because high performance is both fun and addicting. What if a car company could capture those same emotions and sensations in a package that makes no excuses for its environmental impact ... a vehicle that doesn't sacrifice performance for green credentials that literally screams, "drive me?" Meet Chrysler's latest concept vehicle, the Dodge ZEO.
ZEO stands for Zero Emissions Operation. Where premium gasoline once flowed, electrons now deliver ample power. That's right, ZEO is a pure electric car, or more accurately an electric performance car. ZEO delivers clean electric performance on par with the venerable Chrysler HEMI V-8. Acceleration is well within the realm of a true muscle car: 0-60 mph from a standing start happens in less than six seconds.
This is possible because the ZEO is propelled by a 200 kilowatt electric motor that supplies 268 horsepower to the rear wheels. The advanced propulsion system is fed by a 64 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that Chrysler says will offer a range in excess of 250 miles. The batteries are located very low in the chassis and below the cabin floor for a low center of gravity. Although the battery pack is large, ZEO manages to weigh in at just 2,650 pounds, thus enhancing overall performance and handling.
"The Dodge ZEO concept is designed to break the paradigm of what an electric car should look like," says Bill Zheng, Dodge ZEO principal exterior designer. "An electric car can be as expressive as any gasoline powered vehicle. The Dodge ZEO concept proves that point ... and then some."
Dodge is calling the ZEO a 2+2 sport wagon. The key word here is "sport" because very little about ZEO evokes the image of a traditional station wagon. Yes, the cabin extends back to the rear bumper with cargo space behind two rear buckets, but there is certainly nothing stodgy about this wagon. Its stance is pure muscle car, with huge 23 inch alloy wheels filling the exaggerated wheel arches and wide, rounded fender lines. ZEO is a very "fast" shape. The windshield, for example, arches up at an extreme rake from the long and expressive hood, extending all the way back over the passenger compartment to the "C" pillar. The cabin tucks inward from the widest portion at the front door line to form a sculpted teardrop form at the ZEO's tail.
Fortunately, while the ZEO is very expressive, it hasn't lost the Dodge brand character. Cues like the Dodge ram head badges and crosshair grille treatment, which is illuminated from behind, make it easily recognizable as a Mopar. Both front and rear lamps are treated as separate sculptural forms that add ,to the futuristic look of the car.
Zheng and his team took an unconventional approach with the door configuration. Rather than hinging from the front or rear, the ZEO's doors swing up out of the way in a "scissor" fashion to provide unobstructed access to the interior. Once these scissor doors are open, the interior quickly becomes the center of attention. Lou Gasevski, principal interior designer of the Dodge ZEO concept, describes the interior as "an example of designing for people who are used to a dynamic lifestyle and who are surrounded with information and virtual friends at all times." Interior lines are bold, yet minimal. Trimmed in Super White leather with dark gray accents, the ZEO's interior hints at a European flair. The designers were after an integrated look and treated the interior as a single piece of sculpture, accomplished by blending individual components into a unified whole.
To create the character of a true 2+2, a dramatic center console slopes downward at an angle that extends all the way past the rear bucket seats. The ZEO's steering wheel, column, and instrument panel are a single freestanding design element that adjusts as one unit. The wheel is open, with two closely spaced spokes allowing 80 percent of the rim uncluttered. A thin blue acrylic viewing screen, which is positioned directly in the driver's line of sight through the open steering wheel, supplies critical driving information.
Clearly, Chrysler designer's had the Sixties muscle car playbook in mind when they concocted the ZEO. A lightweight platform with an oversized motor driving the rear wheels is a sure recipe for fun. Only this time around, it's good clean fun.
Want to know more about electric cars? Be sure to check out these