|Chrysler's Electric Vehicles Meet the Press |
November. 17, 2008
The automotive press believed that Chrysler was well behind its competitors in
developing alternative-fueled cars until September, when the automaker suddenly
unveiled four previously-secret electric vehicles to the press. At that time,
however, only CNBC's Phil Lebeau was allowed to see the vehicles, and even
Lebeau wasn't given the opportunity to drive each of them.
Now, however, the cars are beginning to break cover, disproving some speculation
that the vehicles were merely smoke-and-mirrors mockups.
Motor Trend has driven Jeep's Wrangler EV. After some time behind the wheel,
they call the electric Jeep "full of promise." It "uses an electric motor to
drive the rear wheels, lithium-Ion batteries to store the energy, a
super-computer controller to manage the energy flow, and a small
engine/generator needed to produce power when storage ratings in the batteries
fall below 30-percent." The result is a Wrangler that "will run on full
electric power up to 40 miles, then act something like a hybrid after that,
where the generator produces power directly to the electric motor as needed. Any
extra energy during braking or off-throttle situations will be routed into the
batteries." That strategy is the same as the one used in the highly-anticipated
Chevy Volt. The SUV's acceleration, they report, "is strong and smooth," and
the Wrangler EV may even out-handle traditionally-powered Wranglers, since the
added weight of the low-mounted battery pack "helps to take away some of the
Wrangler's typical ‘tippy' feel when cornering at higher speeds."
Autoblog, meanwhile has seen the Dodge EV electric sports car up close, but not
driven the car. They reports, "The Dodge EV is essentially a Lotus Europa, but
uses lithium batteries and a 268 hp electric motor in place of the standard 2.0L
four cylinder engine and transmission. It promises a range of 150-200 miles and
a 0-60 time of under 5 seconds. It's a full-blown, plug-in EV, just like the
Tesla Roadster, and should require a 4-hour recharge from a 220V outlet or 8 hours on a 110."
But the first Chrysler electric vehicle to hit showrooms, according to
Automobile Magazine, may actually be an electric minivan. According to Douglas
Quigley, the chief engineer of Chrysler's electric vehicle program, "The minivan
has yielded the most consumer response." It also might be the easiest to build.
"From an engineering standpoint, the van offers space to package the electric
powertrain without intruding upon the interior cabin. On the ENVI Town &
Country demonstrator, engineers used the area normally reserved for Stow 'n Go
storage to house a lithium-ion battery pack." Quigley said an official decision
on which to build first will come in "early 2009."