Ding, dong, the diesel's dead. OK, maybe not entirely, but blame what you're about to read on the part of the public that still can't accept that today's diesel vehicles aren't stinky or smoky. Or blame Al Gore. Or Toyota. Or polar bears.
Electricity is where it's (going to be) at
Making headlines recently has been the Chevy Volt, an electric vehicle that can go 40 miles without fuel or emissions, and with an extended-range capability of a couple hundred extra miles.
But let's back up: In late 2007, Chrysler created an in-house company to work on electric-drive technology. Chrysler was pretty serious about ENVI-it was named after the first four letters of the word "environment" and you don't use four-letter words unless you're serious. It required that ENVI be more than a bunch of dudes sitting around reading Beer magazine and calling that R&D.
So, said dudes coughed up a couple of concept vehicles earlier this year, including the Jeep Renegade, which had a diesel-electric powertrain. The Renegade was an electric vehicle that could go 40 miles without fuel or emissions, and had an extended-range capability of a couple hundred extra miles.
You see where Detroit is headed?
ENVI's variations on this "updated" electric theme appear on three different platforms-front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive-and from all three brands: Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep.
The most interesting of the bunch is the Dodge: an electric sports car (think Viper at a glance but Lotus Europa in execution). In fact, it's all electric. No fuel. At all. It runs on a 200kW electric motor (see the underhood photo), makes almost 270 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, produces zero emissions, and has a 150-mile range. The cost of electricity today equals about $0.75 per gallon. Your wallet's doing the math.
The other technology ENVI developed went into the Chrysler and Jeep products: the Town & Country minivan and Wrangler. While the Dodge is called "electric," these two are referred to as "range-extended electric." The first clue that the Wrangler isn't the Renegade? Gas, not diesel.
Chrysler uses the word "modularity" here-as in, the minivan and Wrangler can share hardware (let's hope the electric powertrain is the only modularity mentioned for these two in the future). Like the Renegade (and Volt), the battery pack in these two EVs can run 40 miles on one charge (Chrysler says 40 percent of us are driving less than that each day). The small engine and electric generator are there for up to 400 miles of refueling/recharging freedom. The recharge comes from run-of-the-mill household electricity, just like your cell phone. However, we hope that unlike our cell phone, the Jeep battery will still hold a charge after a year.
Besides the differences in the regular and EV Wrangler powertrains, there's the center of gravity. The EV's is significantly lower; the battery pack is axle height. However, Chrysler says the weight of the two Jeeps is about the same.
Chrysler swears an electric vehicle is going to be available to the public in 2010 (like the Volt). And while we implied that this Jeep was a '10 model in the title, the truth is that none of these three may see the light of day. It could be another front-, rear-, or four-wheel-drive Dodge, Chrysler, or Jeep product.
What's even less clear is pricing. There's an all-electric '09 Tesla Roadster in the U.S. already and it costs $109,000. Meanwhile, the Volt is rumored at $30,000-$40,000. Chrysler's Executive Vice President of Product Development, Frank Klegon, won't commit to any of those numbers, other than to say the production EV will cost less than the Tesla. We hope so, because $109,000 would buy a lot of fuel for a diesel Wrangler.
Jeep Wrangler EV Specs
Power: 200 kW (268 hp)
Torque: 295 lb-ft
Battery type: Lithium-ion
Energy: 27 kWh
Peak power: 200 kW
Charging: Onboard, dual voltage (110/120-volt outlet, 220/240-volt outlet)
0-60 mph: 9.0 seconds
1/4-mile acceleration: 16.5 seconds
Top speed: More than 90 mph
Range: 400 miles; 40 of them pure-electric