Author: Marc Lachapelle
While major competitors are locked into a race to bring a single extended-range electric or even a plug-in hybrid car to market, the beleaguered Chrysler Corporation has introduced no fewer than five different electric-drive vehicle platforms in Detroit. Furthermore, the first vehicle to be spun off one of these platforms would be produced for North America in 2010 and three more by 2013. Such announcements, mere days after the approval of the TARP financial rescue agreements, have a taste of vapourware. Yet, Chrysler is adamant about its plan and goes even further by stating its goal of having 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2013, a number that includes its market-leading GEM neighbourhood electric vehicles.
The carmaker had already unveiled three rechargeable electric prototypes last fall and presented updated versions in Cobo Hall. The sports car, now called Dodge Circuit EV, a four-door Jeep Wrangler and a Chrysler minivan. To these, Chrysler now adds the Jeep Patriot EV and the all-new Chrysler 200C EV sports sedan concept. Both are ‘range-extended electric vehicles while the Dodge Circuit, built on a version of the Lotus Elise chassis, runs on electric power exclusively.
Looking at the Circuit and 200C on display, Chrysler design chief Ralph Gilles spontaneously says: “they look so good, you wouldn’t think they are electric vehicles.” Asked about his favourite, Gilles immediately replies: “The 200C, no doubt. It is a sign of where I want to take Chrysler design. Basically back to its prominence in the mid-90s.” One can only wish the passionate Gilles, who grew up in Montreal and went on to design the smashing Chrysler 300C sedan, to succeed again.