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Dodge EV in Trio of Chrysler Electric Cars for 2010

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Not to be outdone in the hot new electric and E-REV segment, Chrysler has announced not one but THREE new Chrysler electric cars that rely solely or predominantly on electric motors for their forward propulsion, according to CNBC--not to mention the expansion of a fourth electric vehicle that's already been for sale for nearly a decade. All three concepts are intended for eventual production, with at least one slated for production sometime in 2010.

Number one: A Tesla competitor. A roadster in form and based on the Lotus Europa, this all-electric sportscar, the Dodge EV, will accelerate to 60 mph in less than five seconds, have a 150- to 200-mile range on a full charge, and be driven at the rear wheels. Charging times for the Dodge EV are cited by CEO Bob Nardelli as 4 hours on a 110-volt outlet, 8 hours on a 220-volt line.

Number two: An E-REV (extended-range electric vehicle) Jeep Wrangler that can travel solely on electric propulsion up to 40 miles and then, with the assistance of a roughly 1.0-liter gasoline generator delivering electricity to the electric motors and back to the battery, travel up to another 400. Chrysler execs claimed on CNBC that this Wrangler, each wheel powered by its own electric motor, can travel "400 miles on 9 gallons." That works out to 44 mpg for this beast of burden, more than double the economy it's capable of with its overburdened 3.7-liter V-6. And individual throttle control, in essence, for each wheel could conceivably be a remarkable advancement in the land of four-wheeling.

Number three: An E-REV Chrysler Town & Country, with batteries located beneath the second row of seats. This enables the minivan's convenient Swivel & Go seating to remain. This vehicle's range and details of its propulsion are not yet known, but as it's called an E-REV, we assume a setup similar to the Jeep Wrangler above, itself nearly an exact copy of GM's recently announced 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

Number four: Electric "neighborhood" vehicles. Chrysler has been building and selling bubbly electric golf-cart-like vehicles for a decade now, and on CNBC, Chrysler execs claimed there are currently 40,000 on the road with a combined total of about 250 million miles on them. Far from the high-tech lithium-ion propulsion systems of today, the lead-acid batteries and short ranges of these vehicles don't have much relevance compared to the three concepts announced by Chrysler. But Nardelli claims that an electric city car will be developed off of this platform, and 40,000 pleased consumers in gated communities and golf courses across America (ever heard of Peachtree City outside of Atlanta?) is pretty significant.

Clearly, Chrysler LLC has cribbed two ideas from other companies in assembling its proposed arsenal of electric vehicles. Just as the "change" mantra was invented by one presidential candidate and then quite successfully adopted by the other in this election season, GM and Tesla started the E-REVolution and electric roadster, respectively, and now Chrysler seems to be stealing the spotlight by being the first automaker to announce a fleet of Chrysler electric cars incorporating the best of both technologies.

Chrysler has something to brag about today, as well as the beginnings of a plan to cheer its loyalists and struggling dealer infrastructure. For now, anyway--Chrysler's long, unproductive track record with electric vehicles aside from the GEM is reason enough to believe this announcement's designed to help its case for federal loans, and that actual production without that money is decidedly iffy.

Tides change rapidly in the automotive universe, it would seem, and we're glad to see automakers tripping over each other in search of the Green Mantle. Wonder if GM wishes it had copyrighted the E-REV nomenclature?--Colin Mathews
 
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