After the big splash last week with GM’s Volt announcement, Chrysler has decided to release information on their previously secret electric car program. Chrysler announced plans today to introduce a full line of electric vehicles by late 2010, including cars, trucks and SUV’s.
Chrysler Chairman Robert Nardelli introduced three new cars; an extended-range electric Chrysler EV Minivan, an extended-range electric Jeep EV , and a fully electric sports car dubbed the Dodge EV. Like GM, Chrysler is dealing with a technology that isn’t quite ready for prime-time. Chrysler is currently working with “four or five” out of the dozen lithium-ion battery companies to have something ready by 2010. Chrysler is launching a new joint venture with General Electric (Chrysler CEO Nardelli former employer) aimed at developing even more advanced battery systems
Chrysler, which was acquired a year ago by private-equity group Cerberus Capital Management LP, has been searching for partners to help it keep in the race to launch high-tech cars that cut fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.
Dodge Electric Vehicle
The planned Dodge EV will be a rear-wheel-drive sports car that seats two and has a 268 horsepower electric motor that creates a stout 480 lb-ft of torque. Performance is zero to 60 in fewer than five seconds and a 13 second quarter mile time. All of this comes with a driving range of 150-200 miles on an eight hour charge. Do these numbers sound familiar? They should, the EV is built on a Lotus Europa platform, and sports almost the same technology as the Tesla Roadster.
Jeep Electric Vehicle
The Jeep Wrangler EV will have an engine capable of producing 268 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The estimated range is 40 miles electric; 400 miles total with gasoline assist.
Chrysler Town & Country EV
“The Chrysler EV combines the electric-drive components of an Electric Vehicle with an integrated small-displacement engine and generator to produce additional electricity to power the electric-drive system when needed. This provides all of the positive attributes of an Electric Vehicle and extends the driving range to be equivalent to today’s gasoline-powered vehicles – without compromises.”
It looks as if Tesla is starting to really ramp up production. Here is a rainbow of Tesla Roadsters lined up outside their facility. Tesla has stated from the beginning that their intention was to make their first model a flagship car with high performance and a similarly high price, while still being a better deal than similarly performing sports cars. The Roadster is meant to set the tone for the brand, and with a reasonable profit margin, generate the capital to fund future development of more modest automobiles.
It’s a reasonable strategy. Most of the technology we use in our everyday lives started as something few could afford. The wealthy pay the premiums that generate the revenue to pay for manufacturing capabilities that bring prices down, and eventually the technology trickles down to more affordable designs.
Hopefully other manufacturers will jump in and start producing economy PHEVs that build on the high tech systems used in the Tesla.
GM announced this week that the Chevy Volt is still on schedule for a November 2010 release. The new plug in hybrid (PHEV) is expected to sell for between $30,000 to $40,000. However, GM only expects to be able to ramp production to 100,000 a year by 2012. As a comparison, the Toyota Prius is selling at a rate of almost a quarter a million per year.
While GM works hard to solve battery delays, cooling issues, and other unexpected issues, other companies are also speeding up their own PHEV development. Toyota has announced a follow-on Prius PHEV that will be released in 2009 using standard NiMh battery packs, but will follow-up with Li-ion packs in 2010. Ford has basically given up and said that they hope to have a PHEV available in 5 years.
My friend Pete sent me an email about the new Lightning GT from the Lightning Car Company based in Britain. This Telsa competitor has over 600HP on tap, courtesy of individual electric motors mounted in each wheel hub. The projected 0-60MPH is in less than 5 seconds, and claims a top speed of over 130 MPH. That is similar performance as the Telsa, but surprisingly has similar range estimates of over 200 miles to a charge, while being much heavier.
The NanoSafeTMLi-ion battery system that is utilized can be recharged in as little as 10 minutes when connected to a 3 phase electrical system. The battery systems uses nano titanate structures instead of traditional graphite, which are claimed to greatly increase safety and longevity. That type of recharge time is currently unheard of, however most homes are not equipped with three phase power. Perhaps this is a way for traditional gas stations to stay in business. Plug in, get your latte and newspaper in the morning, and by the time the clerk is done with you, your Lightning should be recharged.
Amazingly this company is still in business, however they still do not have a product that they can sell.
It looks like consumers in California will soon be seeing electric Mini’s on the street. The Mini’s are made in Oxford, England. These examples will be partially assembled alongside the normal cars, minus the engine, gearbox and fuel tank. Then they’ll go over to parent company BMW’s facility in Munich, Germany, to be fitted with all the necessary electric drivetrain components and batteries before heading west.
BMW sources told Automotive News Europe that 490 of the Minis will be leased to selected customers in California and 10 will be used as show cars.
The electric cars will have yellow roofs, and will allow BMW to meet California’s requirement that carmakers start selling zero-emission vehicles.
Too bad that they are not bring the bad-ass PML Mini QED. Those blokes created a Monster electric Mini that features four 160HP electric motors, one on each wheel. The car has been designed to run for four hours of combined urban/extra urban driving, powered only by a battery and bank of ultra capacitors. A claimed top speed of 150 mph, a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds, and a reported range of 932 miles when the ICE hybrid gas motor provides additional charge for the on-board batteries. In this hybrid mode, fuel economies of up to 80mpg can be achieved.
It looks like the Tesla Roadster is finally starting to make an appearance. As most people know, the Tesla has suffered from delay after delay, frustrating those who have been so excited to start seeing them out on the road. Initially they had issues with their transmission, but it looks like they now have that behind them.