Chrysler has revealed a set of plug-in electric vehicles that it believes will bring it ownership of the EV market in the US. Hot on the heels of GM’s high-profile launch of the Chevrolet Volt, Chrysler has released details of the Dodge EV sportscar, based on the Lotus Europa, and electric versions of the Jeep Wrangler and Town & Country minivan.
The most surprising is the Dodge EV, with its clear similarities to the Tesla Roadster, which is constructed by Lotus and based on an Elise. Chrysler has come under pressure from its dealers because the lack of electric vehicles in its model range. The announcement that it wants to apply electric drive technology to front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and body-on-frame four-wheel-drive vehicles vehicles should go some way to bringing them onside.
Chrysler has predicted a range of 200 miles for the new Dodge EV, much the same as the Lotus Elise-based Tesla Roadster. The car will be equipped with a 200kW motor delivering 480lb ft of torque, enough to take it to 60mph in less than five seconds, claims Chrysler. The larger vehicles have a different set-up, allowing them to run on electric motors powered by onboard batteries for about 40 miles, before swapping over to traditional engines.
Although the electric Jeep will have traditional driveshafts, Chrysler's vice-president of Advance Vehicle Enginering, Lou Rhodes, said: “We are also exploring four-wheel-drive, in-wheel electric motors to demonstrate the full reach of ENVI’s advanced electric-drive technologies,”
Some analysts believe that Chrysler has carefully timed the announcement of its electric vehicle plans to coincide with the proposal before Congress this week to offer US auto makers $25bn of 'soft', low-interest loans to help them change tack and re-tool their factories.
The latest rumour in Detroit is that Chrysler has done a deal with battery maker A123, and that its range of EVs will be designed around next-generation lithium-ion battery technology. Chrysler was involved in the DaimlerChrylser/BMW hybrid joint venture (which has given us the 7-Series ActiveHybrid and S-class BlueHybrid) until it was sold off last year – so the company already has internal expertise on next-gen battery systems.