January 13 2009 Chrysler introduced three electric-vehicle prototypes in September 2008, while expressing its intention to broaden its all-electric and Range-extended Electric Vehicle portfolio across its vehicle lineup. At the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Company unveiled updated versions of those vehicles – along with two new electric vehicles.

Chrysler will produce at least one of these vehicles for North American markets in 2010 (still no word on which one), with at least three more models to follow by 2013. Between its ENVI electric-drive vehicles and GEM neighbourhood electric vehicles, Chrysler expects to have 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2013.

Range-extended Electric Vehicle platform

Chrysler has developed a Range-extended Electric Vehicle platform that is a plug in series hybrid system capable of 40 miles electric only and 400 mile (640 km) total driving range. Much like the GM Volt there is no direct connection between the gasoline motor and the wheels, the petrol engine is used only to generate electricity to feed the electric motor when the battery charge runs low. The Range-extended Electric Vehicle platform uses a permanent magnet synchronous 3 phase AC (BLDC) electric motor with 200 Kw (268 hp) and 400 Nm (295 lb/ft). The motor and inverter for the Chrysler prototype Range-extended Electric Vehicles have been sourced from UQM Technologies and while the Wall Street journal speculated in September 2008 that A123 Systems were in advanced talks with Chrysler regarding battery supply there has been no official confirmation concerning either company. The EV drive system is integrated with a small-displacement gasoline engine and electric generator capable of a continuous 70 Kw (94 hp) to produce additional electricity to power the electric-drive system beyond the basic EV only range of 40 miles (64 km). The recharging process and time for a Range-extended Electric Vehicle is the same as an all-electric vehicle, using either a 110-volt or 220-volt outlet.

The same Range-extended Electric Vehicle platform may be used in a total of 4 vehicles:

  • The Chrysler 200C EV concept represents what a next-generation Chrysler sedan could be
  • Jeep Patriot EV which is a series hybrid version of 2009 Jeep Patriot.
  • Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV is also a Range-extended Electric Vehicle. This prototype is a two-wheel drive Wrangler but Chrysler say they are exploring four-wheel-drive, in-wheel electric motors to demonstrate the full reach of the Company’s advanced electric-drive technologies. When this technology is developed the instant high torque of the electric-drive motor and the ability to precisely control each wheel independently ideally suited for off-road driving. Chrysler has provided no technical details on these in-wheel motors and no future dates when we might see a demonstration vehicle. Although the idea of an off road 4x4 with wheel motors has enormous potential we will have to wait for more news from Chrysler on this technology.
  • Chrysler Town & Country EV minivan is a front wheel drive vehicle capable of carrying 7 passengers, that like the other Range-extended Electric Vehicle, delivers 40 miles of all-electric range and a total range of 400 miles.

Dodge Circuit EV

The most exciting Electric Vehicle demonstrated by Chrysler and the one we think most likely to reach production first is the Dodge Circuit. Based on the Lotus Europa it is identical in concept to the Tesla Roadster. With the same 200 Kw (268 hp) and 400 Nm (295 lb/ft) electric motor used in the Range-extended Electric Vehicle platform the Dodge Circuit actually has slightly more power and torque than the Tesla’s 248 HP (185 Kw) and 276 ft/lb (375 Nm). Tesla has just announced a Roadster Sport with 15% more power which would give it 212 Kw but at a premium price of US$128,000. Chrysler say the Circuit has a range of 150-200 miles (240-320 km) but no battery capacity or curb weight has been published for this vehicle nor has any retail price.

The Dodge Circuit EV posts impressive performance numbers:

  • 0-60 mph in less than 5 seconds
  • ¼-mile in 13 seconds
  • Top speed of more than 120 mph

Although there has been no official confirmation it is widely believed that Chrysler has made the decision to discontinued Viper production after the 2011 model year. The Dodge circuit would seem to be the perfect low volume sports car replacement especially considering the similarly equipped Tesla EV has a faster 0-60 mph time (3.7 sec) than a 510 hp (380 Kw) third generation production model Viper (3.94 sec).

Paul Evans

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