Chrysler has provided an advance preview of its three concept cars for theDetroit show, about seven weeks in advance of the preview days when they’ll be formally revealed to the press. But we can understand why they’re quick on the trigger; if these concepts are any indication, the automaker, which has long been resistant to change and slow to adopt hybrids, isn’t going to make the same mistake with electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-ins (PHEVs).
With each of these, Chrysler aims to pair excitement with environmental friendliness for each of the concepts, which are primarily powered by an electric motor system and advanced, yet-to-be-developed lithium-ion battery pack.
They all appear to achieve this duality, but that’s about where the similarities end. Looking at details for each of the particular concepts, they span a wide range in terms of size, design intent — and mechanically, each uses a different approach toward what Chrysler calls a “range extender” for the powertrain.
In the case of the Chrysler ecoVoyager concept, that range extender is a small hydrogen fuel cell, allowing a total range of more than 300 miles. The mid-size ecoVoyager is a sleek, rounded one-box design — looking like a low-slung crossover vehicle — that’s said to celebrate “the romance of automobile travel embodied in a four-door, four-passenger distinctively American design,” with elegance, simplicity, and serenity as priorities. Without the powertrain occupying its traditional place in front, the Chrysler promises to be extremely roomy inside and “really make the most of cab forward once again,” according to design chief Trevor Creed. A 200 kW (approximately 250 hp) motor would power the ecoVoyager with enough gusto to reach 60 mph in less than eight seconds.
At only 153 inches long (just a few inches longer than the MINI Cooper) and less than 63 inches wide, the Jeep Renegade
concept is a little two-seater with a cut-down windshield, prominent roll bar, and an easy-to-clean, hose-out interior, and lightweight aluminum construction — along with, of course, good ground clearance and four-wheel drive. Before even considering that its powertrain yields fuel economy of up to 110 mpg, it seems like the perfect runabout for dune crawling, off-roading, and urban errands. In this case, the propulsion system is electric, and it can go up to 40 miles on electricity only; for longer distances a small-displacement Bluetec diesel kicks in, providing supplemental power for the motor system and charges up the cells. There’s also regenerative braking, which in stop-and-go driving especially would help improve efficiency and extend the range.
The Dodge ZEO
is a four-passenger, 2+2 sport wagon and takes a nearly opposite design direction from the Chrysler, with a long hood, rearward cabin, and monster 23-inch wheels. The ZEO, according to Creed, a “new, responsible breed of muscle car for the 21st Century.” And with a larger lithium-ion battery pack to yield a 250-mile driving range, plus a powerful 200 kW electric motor with the juice to rip out zero-to-sixty times of less than six seconds, it would be a pure EV geared for driving enthusiasts.
2008 Detroit Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (11/1/2007)