Chrysler Jumps Into Electric Car Race With Three New Vehicles

By Eliza Strickland | September 25, 2008 9:57 am

Chrysler electric carChrysler, the smallest of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, surprised the industry this week by revealing three new electric vehicles, the first of which it plans to begin shipping to dealers in late 2010. In unveiling a minivan, a Jeep Wrangler and a sports car, Chrysler’s executives spelled out plans for a future in which most, if not all, automobiles would use electric motors for propulsion — essentially sounding the death knell for the internal-combustion engine [Los Angeles Times].

The car company has struggled financially over the past decade, so the ambitious plan surprised analysts, many of whom thought Chrysler lacked the size and financial resources to develop an electric car on its own [The New York Times]. By announcing that its first electric models will hit showrooms in 2010, Chrysler puts itself in direct competition with General Motors, which has a similar timeline for its electric car, the Chevy Volt, which was unveiled last week. Nissan is also working on several electric cars of its own.

The new Jeep and minivan that Chrysler showed off use a similar technology to that employed in the Chevy Volt: Lithium-ion batteries will power the car for the first 40 miles and a small, one-liter, internal combustion engine will charge the battery for longer rides. A consumer will be able to charge the batteries in eight hours from a U.S. 110-volt outlet or four hours from a 220-volt outlet. “The range is about 400 miles on eight or nine gallons of gas,” [said] Chrysler Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda [CNET].

Also on display was an all-electric Dodge sports car called the EV. It has only a lithium-ion battery with a range of about 150 miles before it must be recharged externally [USA Today], but the sporty vehicle will reportedly be able to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds.

Image: Chrysler

Related Post: The Electric Car Isn’t Dead! Here Comes the Chevy Volt

  • jiriz

    400 miles on 9 gallons of gas, that’s 44 MPG. Where does the electricity siphoned from the grid somes in?

    Besides, many cars today can do over 40 MPG without the expensive batteries.

  • jiriz

    400 miles on 9 gallons of gas, that’s 44 MPG. Where does the electricity siphoned from the grid comes in?

    Besides, many cars today can do over 40 MPG without the expensive batteries.

  • Dean

    Where are the 40mpg vehicles you speak of?
    Electric will only get cheaper as oil goes thru the roof!

  • PTownGrad

    The 400 miles on 9 gallons of gas doesn’t include the original 40 you can get from the batteries alone. Besides, who travels more than 40 miles in a day more than once a week or so? Regardless, 44 MPG for a minivan is unprecedented in today’s market. Congrats to Chrysler for finally joining the chase towards EVs and sustainability!

  • Lou

    I applaud the electric cars following GM’s Volt. It really is the next step but its not the final step.

    The next step is to bring clean diesel/biodiesel into the mix because high compression diesel is atleast 30% more efficient.

    The next step is to bring high compression gas/ethanol engines which are more efficient than diesel/biodiesel.

    Diesel engines get better mileage than gas engines by 30% so shouldnt it be an electric with a diesel backup?

    Anyway, the reason to applaud this that the solution doesnt solely rest with one single fuel or one single technology.

    If we can get cars, trucks, trains and plains to run on different forms of fuel, then our nation can have multiple paths to energy independence.

    Additionally, multiple forms of fuel would alsobe in the interests of national ecurity should our oil and gas supply lines be severed for any reason, its in our national interest to have alternatives to keep our country running. This cannot be accomplished if the entire country run on gasoline.

  • Bill Dale

    Cheers to Dodge in particular for the conviction to bring a full electric vehicle to market, but Discover got the name wrong: it’s not called the EV, it’s called the ENVI.

    The reason the ENVI is significant is that no other established American car maker has made or said they would make a highway-capable EV (electric vehicle) since the GM EV-1 of more than a dozen years ago, and that was a very different story since GM only made the EV-1 under vigorous protest, only leased it in California, never sold it and crushed all but a dozen or so as soon as they got California’s mandate overturned that forced them to offer one percent of their entire fleet as EVs.

    The entire time they made them, GM was secretly sabotaging their own EV program because they knew they could make much more money selling fuel-powered cars that require regular tune-ups, smog tests, and other kinds of maintenance and replacement parts that EVs never need. Even the brake pads on EVs last much longer since the electric motors use the inertia of the moving vehicle to recharge the battery while decelerating.

    Hybrids such as the Prius will only be attractive to car buyers for a few years until fast-charge batteries and charging stations become widely available, batteries such as the Altair NanoSafe that can be recharged in less than 10 minutes, can last the life of the car, and won’t explode or catch fire like lithium-ion batteries can. A battery from A123 Systems can be charged nearly as fast as the NanoSafe, will likely last for 10 years, and is cheaper, so there will be less expensive alternatives. Eestor, a Texas company, has a supercapacitor battery substitute that they claim may last even longer than batteries, give an even longer driving range between charges, and may cost perhaps only 10 percent as much as an equivalent battery.

    As soon as high-speed stationary charging stations start to be installed, the market for hybrids will disappear since the onboard generator that makes an EV a hybrid only serves to increase the weight and decrease the efficiency of an EV. If such electric cars can drive cross-country with electricity at the equivalent cost of around 150 mpg. When drivers understand the economies of an EV compared to a hybrid and there are enough charging stations available, no one will want hybrids any more and owners that do have hybrids will rip out the generators and replace them with extra batteries to increase their range.

    Dodge’s announcement is likely to encourage Starbucks, Costco and other companies to install charging stations in their parking lots so that anyone with an EV can recharge while they are shopping or getting something to eat. And as soon as charging stations begin to pop up, it won’t stop until the entire country has enough of them that we can drive anywhere without gasoline.

    Note: 500 people a year burn to death in car crashes that they would have otherwise survived… they die because the gasoline explodes. As soon as EVs start to take market share from fueled cars, you’ll see that number of people dying in collision fires will decrease since the new generation of batteris just short out, they don’t explode and they don’t catch fire even if they are crushed, piereced or baked in an oven at 400 degrees. And intelligent batteries can be designed to disable themselves in the event of an accident the same way air bags are activated in accidents.

    For those unfamiliar with the technology, EVs are extremely simple– they can even be designed to work with no other moving parts than the wheels themselves, incredibly, and still give neck-snapping performance… look at the British Lightning high-performance sports car due to be sold in Europe in a few months. They do not have thousands of moving parts like conventional cars, never need smog tests, and will not waste hundreds of hours of our time at gas stations… most drivers will be plugging in at home and unplugging as soon as they leave, saving lots of time and money… imagine being able to drive past gas stations for the rest of your life. And what electricity your car does use can be supplied by solar panels on your roof rather than the utility company.

    I have never been a cheerleader for Dodge until now. Thanks, Dodge, sincerely. This is a good thing.

  • Randy Scott

    As usual, the pop media, including technology writers, isn’t educated enough to understand the difference between an EV and a Plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV). More disturbing is that Chrysler has jumped on the bandwagon of green-washing Detroit by promising a bright, shiny future AFTER a battery maker performs a miracle, while they wait patiently for UAW members to starve to death.

    All of the technology described has been available for a long time but not flashy & sexy enough to appeal to Americans who got addicted to the power & glory of the Muscle Car & Macho Truck era. I know several people who drive electric cars to work every day, but not on energy wasting, over crowded expressways. That, you see, is illegal.

    The biggest obstacle to having electric commuter cars right now are traffic laws that make it illegal to drive a vehicle around your town that is not capable of more than 30 miles per hour while posting signs that limit your speed to less than 30 miles per hour.

    A conversion, where the gasoline engine has been removed and replaced by an electric motor and a dozen lead-acid batteries (so-called “gold cart” batteries) is cheaper to create than any of glamorous utopian cars being promised by varous manufacturers. It’s also capable of highway speeds for a short stretch, like a typical weekday commute and cost less over their lifetimes than any internal combustion vehicle.

    Unfortunately, the conversion requires “hot rod” skills that most people don’t have or an enormous investment to cover liability issues.

  • Randy Scott

    Aarrrgh! I meant to say “golF cart” batteries -but the “d” key is right next to the “f” key.
    By the way; there are some gated communities for rich people where everyone drives golf carts around and only burn gasoline when they travel long distances.
    I’m constantly reminded of the slogan from “The 6 Million Dollar Man”:
    “We can rebuild you, make you stronger & better: We have the technology.”

  • Joel Rosenthal

    How do you plug in an electric vehicle if you don’t have off-street parking or if you live in an apartment building?

  • Terry

    “How do you plug in an electric vehicle if you don’t have off-street parking or if you live in an apartment building?”
    With a really really really long extension cord!

  • Terry

    I love the idea of electric vehicles but it all boils down to economics. No internal combusion engine means less parts and service the car makers sells which means less profit. I believe Chevy killed the EV-1 because there was little profit to be made on parts and service. It will be interesting to see if the car makers take a cut in profits or inflate the initial cost of the vehicles to make up the difference… or they may just use their advertising dollars to sway us back to the good old internal combusion engine powered cars. “Look into my eyes… you like gas powered cars…”

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