Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New electric Chryslers

The Chrysler 200C EV concept car shown at the Detroit Auto Show is an extended-range electric car with a small gasoline engine that would not drive the wheels, but would provide power to stretch the range of the electric motor by charging its battery.

The car was equipped with a large touch-screen on its dashboard as part of a new type of system for controlling its audio and cellphone capabilities. Its Uconnect features would let users build a network of “buddy vehicles,” whose locations could be tracked on a dashboard screen; allow parents to set strict limits on how their teenagers drive and where they go; and provide a slide-out computer for a front-seat passenger.

Chrysler hasn't yet decided whether to produce the vehicle and gave no timeline for when they might make a decision.

The car is supposed to be a midsize sedan and Chrysler's plans for that segment are up in the air. The company has been working on a so-called Project D, that is supposed to yield a midsize sedan that can compete with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

The 200C is separate from Project D, and is conceived as a premium model that would likely sell in lower volumes than the mainstream car Project D is supposed to produce.

The 200C was unveiled alongside a battery-powered prototype Jeep Patriot and three electric-vehicle concepts first shown to the public in September. Those included electric versions of the Town & Country minivan, Jeep Wrangler and Dodge Circuit, a two-seat sports car.

Chrysler has formed a special development group, called ENVI, to work with partners to produce electric vehicles. It assembled a working prototype of the Dodge Circuit sports car by using major components produced by outsiders, such as an underbody made by Lotus and batteries from A123 Systems Inc. The Circuit runs on battery power alone and is supposed to run for up to 200 miles before needing a recharge. (info from The Wall Street Journal & The New York Times; photo from The Times)

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