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Chrysler is charged up about electric vehicles.

Tue Oct 07, 2008

Paul A. Eisenstein: Chrysler sees the future, and it’s electric

Chrysler is charged up about electric vehicles.

In a surprise move, the ailing American automaker has rolled out a trio of battery-powered vehicles that it plans to put into production during the coming decade – one of them set to debut in 2010.

“You’re going to see the electrification of all vehicles” in the years ahead, said Frank Klegon, Chrysler’s executive vice president - product development.

Electrification will range from simple systems, like Stop/Start, which temporarily shuts off an engine at a stoplight, to full battery power. Indeed, by around 2020, Klegon said “at least 50 percent of the market” will be made up of pure EVs or extended-range EVs, or E-RVRs.

The sexy little DodgeEV fits into the pure battery car category. If the basic design looks familiar, that’s because it starts out as a Lotus Europa modified to accept a lithium-ion battery pack, electric motor and the computer control system.

In production, company officials claim the DodgeEV would actually outperform the turbocharged, gasoline-powered Europa, launching from 0 to 60 in less than five seconds and hitting a top speed of 120 mph. Significantly, the target range is 150 to 200 miles per charge.

The ChryslerEV and JeepEV combine battery and gasoline power, much like the well-received Chevrolet Volt. Unlike a conventional hybrid, all these products are designed to run exclusively on battery power for up to 40 miles. Then, a small gas engine fires up. It serves as a generator to recharge the batteries and provide current to the electric motors that directly drive the wheels.

With nine gallons of gas, the Chrysler entry – a modified Town & Country minivan – will get a total 400 miles range. The modified Jeep Wrangler needs eight gallons to go that distance.

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli won’t say which of the three models will come first, though he promises that by mid-decade, the automaker plans to offer a “fleet” of electric vehicles.

And it’s not alone. General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Nissan and numerous other major makers all believe that the auto industry’s future is electric.

Paul A. Eisenstein is an award-winning journalist who has spent more than 30 years covering the global auto industry. His work appears in a wide range of publications worldwide, and he is a frequent broadcast commentator on subjects automotive.

Electric vehicles coming soon

- Chrysler unveils three new electric vehicles, one for each of its U.S. brands.

- The automaker intends to put one of the three into production by 2010, with more to follow.

- Most major automakers now plan to begin switching to clean, high-mileage electric power.

LINK:Paul A. Eisenstein: Chrysler sees the future, and it’s electric - Ridgecrest, CA - Ridgecrest Daily Independent

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