Chrysler LLC is taking giant leaps forward in its mission to catch up in the race to make the car environmentally sustainable. Having only just brought its first hybrid vehicles to market, it’s now forging ahead with range extended electric vehicles, and we’re about to see its very first.The group will show three new examples of these battery cars as concepts at the Detroit show in January; they will be the Chrysler EcoVoyager, Dodge Zeo, and Jeep Renegade. All three concepts use lithium ion batteries as a primary power source. The Dodge Zeo runs on battery power alone, in fact, and is good for 250-miles between charges; the Chrysler EcoVoyager runs a hydrogen fuel cell as a back-up to the battery pack; the Jeep Renegade, finally, has a small diesel engine to add to the car’s operating range.If all this sounds strangely familiar, it’s because this is exactly the position that both General Motors and Ford were in 12 months ago – both were preparing to show plug-in hybrid cars at the Detroit show.GM’s system is called E-Flex and has brought us hydrogen-, petrol- and diesel-electric cars already; Ford’s version is known as HySeries, and has featured in the Airstream concept and the Ford Edge SUV.Ford has yet to show a plug-in hybrid backed up by a conventional combustion engine, but all the same, Chrysler LLC’s got a lot of ground to make up. That’s why it’s about to show these first takes on the options for the electric car of tomorrow.
The Chrysler EcoVoyager
The first of them is, as Chrysler puts it, “an elegant one-box design that celebrates the romance of automobile travel in a four-door, distinctively American design.” In other words, the Chrysler EcoVoyager is a kind of zero-emissions Pacifica crossover estate car for the 21st century.Although the EcoVoyager has a one-box body and borrows the brand’s big MPV name, it’s only a four-seater. Its cabin-forward, short-nosed appearance is a response to the fact that the car’s entire fuel cell and battery powertrain is packaged under the floor, and so almost all of the space above can be used for passengers and luggage. “It’s been designed for customers seeking elegance, simplicity and serenity,” says Chrysler design boss Trevor Creed.The EcoVoyager is 4856mm long, 1915mm wide and 1600mm high, and its total range, on battery- and hydrogen-power combined, is just over 300 miles.