It looks like Chrysler is jumping into the electric vehicle (EV) market with both feet. Late in the fall the company unveiled three EV prototypes-a minivan, a sports car, and a Jeep-and said one of the three would go into production for North America in 2010. No hints were given as to which vehicle would get the nod. Chrysler will also put a fleet of 100 EVs on the road next year to test the powertrains.
Chrysler called the EV Wrangler a "Range-extended Electric Vehicle" because it has a small gasoline engine onboard to produce energy as needed for the 200 kW electric motor (268 hp, 295 lb-ft). Using lithium-ion batteries, the motor will power the Jeep on electricity alone for 40 miles; with about 8 gallons of gas on board for the engine, that range jumps to 400 miles.
"We are also exploring four-wheel-drive, in-wheel electric motors to demonstrate the full reach of our advanced electric-drive technologies," said Lou Rhodes, vice president of Advance Vehicle Engineering and president of ENVI, Chrysler's in-house organization focused on electric-drive production vehicles and related advanced technologies.
Chrysler has also launched a consumer website-www.chryslergoeselectric.com-for those of you who want to monitor the company's progress on the EV front.
Special Ram, Too
Texans love their trucks, so Dodge has issued a Lone Star edition of the Ram 1500. The Hemi-powered, Crew Cab 1/2-tons feature chrome accents all over, from the front bumper and grille surround to the 4-inch exhaust tips. Even the 20-inch wheels are available in chrome. Just don't get your hopes up if you live in the other 49 states; the Lone Star Rams are available in Texas only. The suggested retail price for the Lone Star package, which includes the Hemi, is about $2,800.
Special Super Dutys
Ford has announced the addition of two special editions to its Super Duty lineup-a Cabela's FX4 (shown here) and a Harley-Davidson edition of the F-450. Ford's demographic data show that three-quarters of its F-Series owners hunt and fish, so it has had a long-standing relationship with outdoors outfitter Cabela's. Features on the special-edition truck include unique two-tone paint schemes, upholstery and floor mats with Cabela's logos, and additional lockable storage in the front console and under the rear seats for firearms and other gear.
The H-D F-450 features a blue-flame paint scheme, special leather upholstery, and Harley-Davidson badges on the fenders and tailgate.
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Volkswagen displayed this concept pickup at a European commercial truck show in the fall. According to the press materials, the search-and-rescue concept truck previews a production version that will be built in Argentina in 2009 and targeted at South American, Australian, and South African markets-"regions with some the greatest demand for pickups for recreational and business use, due to their great versatility," said the press release. Hello? Volkswagen? Has no one told you of the millions of trucks we drive here in the States?
VW's material was skimpy on tech details. What we do know is that the concept truck is about as big as a Honda Ridgeline and sort of similar in execution, given the four-door cabin and integrated bed. Production versions will be powered by TDI or direct-injection gas engines. We've read online reports that the truck will be called Robust, but that has not been confirmed by VW.
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F-150 goes for MPG
Last month we told you about the XFE pickups GM modified for better fuel economy. Now comes word that Ford is offering SFE (for "superior fuel economy") versions of the F-150. These XL and XLT SuperCrew models (2WD only) are built with 4.6L, three-valve V-8s, six-speed transmissions, and 3.15:1 axle ratios. Combined with low-rolling-resistance tires, the modifications will help the truck achieve 15 mpg city, 21 highway, compared to 15/20 for the non-SFE F-truck with the same engine.
So these days one additional highway mile per gallon equates to "superior"? Are our expectations really that low?
Chrysler Donates Rams
Following the destruction along Texas' Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Ike, Chrysler and its Southwest Business Center donated 10 Ram trucks to the mayor of Galveston and the city council to assist in cleanup and rebuilding efforts. Well, make that nine trucks. Apparently the mayor wanted "the red one." But then she said she was joking. We think.