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.
Former Tesla CEO, Martin Eberhard, recently shared his views on the first thousand miles of driving his custom-painted Tesla. Apparently he is a fan, although he is very honest about his dislikes of the car. These include such mundane things as his hatred of the overly complex navigation system, to more serious issues regarding stiff suspension, limited visibility, and lack of creature comforts.
On the positive side, he talk about all the attention his hundred thounsand dollar electric car is getting, and how much fun it is to zip around in traffic. His longest trip was over 125 miles, and he still felt that he had the ability to travel another 30 miles.
Ouch, that does not look good. Apparantly customer #6 drove his car into the back of a Mercedes while fighting traffic in San Francisco. As expected, folks are already blaming the lack of “noise” generated by the car as being a factor. Huh? This was not a pedestrian getting hit, this was just your classic rear-end collision, almost always caused by aggressive tailgating.
While the damage does not look too bad, as most Lotus owners can tell you, this is not an inexpensive vehicle to repair. Both front and rear “clams” will need to be replaced at a cost of approximately $10,000. In addition, the suspension is very fragile, and often even low speed accidents will require replacement of some suspension pieces. Heaven-forbid if a suspension mount is damaged, because the aluminum chassis is “non-repairable”, and has to be swapped out if bent or damaged in any way.
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.
Looks like the Tesla is finally going into production. Now, if I only had a spare 100K laying around…