Chrysler Takes Slow Steps to Offer Plug-in Vehicles

By · August 13, 2012

Fiat 500 Electric

Fiat will reportedly launch its electric 500 in 2013, but progress is slow and production, when it does hit, will be limited.

Chrysler is apparently content to stay in the the back of the pack when it comes to electric cars. On Aug. 7, a Chrysler executive said the automaker will build hybrid and electric vehicles, but will only do so "sparingly" and for "targeted applications." This does not mean that Chrysler-Fiat will not build plug-in vehicles. "We do believe in electrification," said Bob Lee, vice president and head of engine and electrified propulsion engineering. "We’re developing technology for commercialization preparing for the shift when consumers start pulling them into the marketplace.”

Lee made that comment during a recent conference at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan.

Lee's words echo those of Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who has remarked on several occasions that Chrysler is only willing to build electric vehicles to meet government regulations. In April 2011, Sergio Marchionne, C.E.O. of Chrysler/Fiat, said, “The economics of EVs simply don’t work.” Referring to the electric version of the Fiat 500 that Chrysler could start selling in 2013, he commented, “We will lose over $10,000 per unit despite the retail price being three times higher.”

The battery-powered Fiat 500 is expected to go into production, in low quantities, in 2012. "At Chrysler, we are working on an electric version of the Fiat 500 that we’ll begin manufacturing later this year," the company officially tweeted on Feb. 4. This is likely to mean an unveiling late in 2012, followed by the first sales sometime next year.

What usually gets ignored in discussions about Chrysler's potential electrified vehicles is the company's experience building plug-in hybrid pick-up trucks and minivans. Chrysler has hundreds of plug-in hybrid pick-up trucks, with about 20 miles of all-electric range, in testing—as a result of a 2009 Department of Energy grant. It is also testing a small number of plug-in hybrid minivans. If the company is not optimistic about pure EVs, then an introduction of a plug-in hybrid minivan, for example, would allow Chrysler to offer the market's first family-oriented people-move capable of all-electric miles. That would ease the company into the plug-in market in a segment not currently served by any other carmaker.

Comments

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 2 years ago

This is a "Show Me the Money" moment for Chrysler. What happened to their EV Viper and EV Jeep? Doesn't seem like they're in a big hurry to do anything, other than being required to satisfy gov't grants. $6 a gallong gasoline might be necessary to get them moving off the dime; hopefully electric rates won't skyrocket by then.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 2 years ago

While watching the a marching band on a football field at halftime during a high school football game the entire marching band did a hard left while one band member, a tuba player on the outside row kept going straight. Then a woman exclaimed, "Will you look at that. The entire band is out off step, and only my boy has it right."

Every other car manufacture in the world of any real size has either an EV or a plug-in hybrid program going, and most either have plug-in product out on the street or will so in the next year or so. Chrysler seems to be the only company still stealing government money to run experiments, while never really giving us product.

GM, Ford and many other automotive companies claimed that they would never produce a hybrid because they would loose money. When Toyota put out the first Prius, they all chanted, "Toyota is going to loose its shirt." Well, Toyota is now the most valuable car company on the planet and the Prius is the #3 best selling vehicle in the World. That Chrysler is still bringing up the same stale old arguments from more than a decade ago to justify not doing what every other car maker is doing. My advice to Chrysler is that they better change course or they are going to find them selves in the stands just watching what is going on on the field.

· John (not verified) · 2 years ago

It's really time that the auto and oil industries understand that everything is not about making "more money" now that we have the knowledge that continued use of fossil fuels is jeopardizing the health and well being of our entire planet. It is time they have some concern for making the world a better, and hopefully healthy and safe place to inhabit for us and our generations to come. The short sightedness and pure greed in the quest for more record profits simply astounds me, and is quite frankly disgusting. It is a criminal act to continue to degrade our planet by abuse of resources that are unhealthy for ALL living things.

· John (not verified) · 2 years ago

It's really time that the auto and oil industries understand that everything is not about making "more money" now that we have the knowledge that continued use of fossil fuels is jeopardizing the health and well being of our entire planet. It is time they have some concern for making the world a better, and hopefully healthy and safe place to inhabit for us and our generations to come. The short sightedness and pure greed in the quest for more record profits simply astounds me, and is quite frankly disgusting. It is a criminal act to continue to degrade our planet by abuse of resources that are unhealthy for ALL living things.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 2 years ago

Still driving 2ea- Generation 1 Prius(s), one with 170,000 miles the other 150,000 miles, each over 10 years old and going strong. Just inspected the disc brake pads/rotors they look brand new. Toyota has it's act together, even with this early science experiment of a vehicle. If all automakers would have done the same, back in 2000 as Toyota did, we'd all be driving more efficient, and closer to all electric drive by now. Oil industry influence, and greed for after the warranty sales in parts, drives the auto industry of the USA, not so much the public anymore. If you have not seen by now the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car" you should. Forget the new movie "Revenge of the Electric Car" for it seems to be a sellout movie, trying to bring GM back into the good light of day. A better movie after watching the first mentioned, is "What is the Electric Car" documentary. Then get out there and test drive the Nissan Leaf, and or the other few out there, and learn just how cool EV's really are. Even if you are not Eco minded, do it for less operating expense if nothing else. Set your gasoline vehicle aside for those few and far in between long trips to grandma's house, it will last longer and you'll end up saving money by keeping it alive longer as well, due to less wear and tear from short range driving.

· · 2 years ago

Unfortunately, John and anonymous, the general vibe here and elsewhere lately is that gasoline range extender EVs (Volt, etc.) are superior to pure EVs and that the auto manufacturers have arrived at a technology that will sustain us forever. Forget about the statistically large majority who live less than 10 miles from work. Suddenly, everyone lives 10 times that distance from their job and makes that trip 4 times daily, presumably for midday lunch breaks at home.

Better batteries are coming, but few seem to be interested anymore. People actually seem excited at the prospect of new vehicles that obtain even LESS range in pure EV mode than the Volt. We're still addicted to oil and too-large vehicles that now contain multiple propulsion systems which, while stingier on gasoline than what they're replacing, will cost more over their lifespan due to greater mechanical complexity.

Perhaps "Who Killed The Electric Car II" should be the next movie made.

:- /

· · 2 years ago

As many other, I don’t really agree that a range extender equipped EV will cost more over the lifespan due to greater mechanical complexity. Ok your range extender needs service but if we are really talking about a range extender, that is more of a motorbike sized engine, rather than an almost full size extra engine, then that extra cost becomes marginal. In return you get exactly that, a range extender, not an optional oversized drive engine. Western Washinghton University produced a car that was driving in a serial hybrid configuration with the generator being low power thermophotovoltaics units that produced 15 KW of total power but despite that they had more than enough to go along. The battery remains the prime power unit and if indeed you know you will have to drive further you can help the generator by starting it up straight away from the beginning. It may be that you fall short after 200 or 300 miles when you have emptied your 75 miles battery and you lost the prime start advance of you generator but then standing idle for a short while is no big deal. At least you know you will start again soon and it is very different then not finding a public charger and not knowing if you are going to find one at all. In one case you can lose some time in the other you develop authentic range anxiety.

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