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Chrysler to steal GM's electric thunder

High voltage: Chrysler's Grand Voyager-based electric vehicle.

Number three US maker to steal Chev Volt and Toyota Prius thunder with Chrysler EV

29 Sep 2008

CHRYSLER has challenged General Motors and other major car manufacturers in the electric-car race to market by previewing three new electric vehicles (EV) concepts last week – one of which will reach production during 2010.

With the Chevrolet Volt and plug-in Toyota Prius due around the same time, Chrysler has confirmed it will offer an electric vehicle for sale – mostly likely the full-electric Dodge EV sportscar, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Lotus Europa – to North American consumers in 2010, following a limited 100-unit development program with fleets beginning next year.

European and other markets are expected to follow with consumer sales soon after.

11 center imageLeft: Jeep EV, Dodge EV, Lotus Europa and Tesla Roadster.

The Lotus connection runs deeper than mere aesthetics. The niche British manufacturer and contract engineering firm provides the underpinnings – based on the Elise roadster, which is related to the Europa – for the niche Tesla Roadster EV now on sale in the US.

Chrysler Group Australia managing director Gerry Jenkins told GoAuto last week that the American auto giant had connections with Tesla Motors, although he refused to confirm whether, as some overseas reports indicate, the Dodge EV would share technology with the Tesla Roadster.

In a statement released last week, Chrysler said the development of electric-drive systems for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles at its in-house ENVI unit was “maturing quickly” and that all would utilise just three primary components – an electric motor (developed for front-wheel drive, RWD and body-on-frame AWD applications), a lithium-ion battery system and a controller that manages energy flow.

Chrysler said the two-seater Dodge EV would drive the rear wheels with an electric motor producing 200kW of power and 650Nm of torque – enough for the company to claim it will propel the vehicle from 0-100km/h in less than five seconds, with the quarter mile consumed in 13 seconds. Top speed is more than 190km/h, while the range between recharging is 240-320km.

Recharging takes four hours at a 220-volt outlet, or twice that using a standard 110-volt household outlet.

The other electric vehicles unveiled last week were the Wrangler 4WD-based Jeep EV and Grand Voyager MPV-based Chrysler EV. Both are petrol-electric “range extended electric vehicles” that, like the Chevrolet Volt, use a small petrol engine that can power the electric-drive system as required.

The Jeep EV’s electric motor develops a claimed 200kW and 400Nm, and offers a range of 640km including 64km on battery power alone. It will consume 30 litres of fuel doing in the process, which translates to about 4.7L/100km.

The Chrysler EV has a 190kW/350Nm output, which enables 0-100km/h acceleration of around nine seconds and the same range as the Jeep EV.

“We have a social responsibility to our consumers to deliver environmentally friendly, fuel efficient, advanced electric vehicles, and our intention is to meet that responsibility quickly and more broadly than any other automobile manufacturer,” said Chrysler chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli.

“The introduction of the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge electric vehicles provides a glimpse of the very near future, and demonstrates that we are serious and well along in the development of bringing electric vehicles to market.” Mr Nardelli also told overseas reporters that Chrysler deliberately elected not to design all-new vehicle, preferring to put its resources into the technology rather than platform and body.

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