While GM has generated a media frenzy over its upcoming release of the Volt plug-in hybrid, and even Ford is getting in on the act, little has been heard from Chrysler. That's all changed now, as the smallest of the US Big Three today announced plans to release three electric vehicles, including a totally new all-electric sports car. One of the three models will be on sale as early as 2010.
Chrysler unveiled an "electric range-extended" versions of their Town and Country minivan, as well as their iconic Jeep Wrangler. Both models will be plug-in hybrid variants. The automaker says each will have a 40 mile range on electric-only drive, at which time the gasoline engine will kick in.
This range is identical to GM's Volt, which should come as little surprise, given Chrysler has been working with A123 Systems, the same Lithium-Ion battery supplier GM reputedly will use for the Volt. Chrysler has not announced an official supplier yet, however, and says they are "working with multiple suppliers" on potential sources for batteries.
Tom LaSorda, Vice-Chairman for Chrysler, said the new models have been in the works for nearly two years. According to LaSorda, Chrysler's strategy is radically different than GM's. "We said we’ll take something more bold on the electric — all electric."
LaSorda said, "we didn’t want to spend the time on developing an all new platform, an all new car and then an all new propulsion system. We said we’ve got two icons for our company, a Wrangler, which is the icon for the Jeep brand, and the minivan, there’s 11 million-plus which we’ve sold. And people would say, ‘My god, they brought green to a minivan and Wrangler, this is unbelievable."
The most interesting of the new models, perhaps, is the new all-electric Dodge sportscar, capable of a 0-60 acceleration time of under 5 seconds. The vehicle's range will be 150-200 miles and will have a charging time of 6-8 hours on a standard 110v outlet. The vehicle will also accept a 220v supply, which will cut charging times in half.
No name or price was given for the sports car.
Chrysler has been hit hard by poor sales due to high gasoline prices. The automaker's sales have been down more than 20% in 2008-- a value double the industry average.