Chrysler has unveiled its plans to sell a plug-in electric hybrid vehicle in 2010. The company has been very silent until now, and said it has been working in secret for at least 2 years to develop a line of vehicles that operate much like the Chevy volt, using a gasoline engine to reharge lithium-ion batteries giving the EV's extended range, while also developing a Tesla like all electric sports car.
"We're looking at a full line of electric vehicles," Chrysler chief executive Bob Nardelli said on the CNBC TV network. "We've made huge commitments, both from a resource standpoint and from a financial standpoint."
Chrysler, the third-largest automaker in the United States, pledged to have at least one electric vehicle in showrooms by the end of 2010. It said some of its electric models might be tested in fleets as early as next year.
Chrysler unveiled a working prototype all-electric car badged the Dodge EV outside its corporate headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. The two-door sports car has a lithium-ion battery that can power it 150 miles on one full charge, the company said. It goes from zero to 50 mph in less than five seconds.
Chrysler gave CNBC an exclusive peak of the Dodge as well as three other electric vehicles – a minivan, a Jeep and a microcar known as the "peapod." The microcar is an all-electric beefed-up version of the low-speed vehicles Chrysler has been making and selling for 10 years under its Global Electric Motorcars unit to buyers in gated communities and elsewhere. The minivan and Jeep vehicles are hybrids that have small gasoline engines to back up the electric batteries. They can go 40 miles on pure electric power, Chrysler said.
Chrysler already builds traditional gasoline-powered versions of the minivans at its assembly plant in Windsor, Ont. It could also build any hybrid versions there.
The company's announcement comes one week after General Motors Corp. unveiled the production version of its Chevrolet Volt electric car at a ceremony to mark its one hundred years as a company. Mr. Nardelli acknowledged that although Chrysler is privately-held, it has to be "more vocal" in publicizing the technology it is working on.
This past January, Chrysler said it formed an internal team called ENVI mandated to develop electric drive vehicles. It showed three plug-in hybrid electric concept vehicles at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit the same month: The Chrysler ecoVoyager van, which has a fuel cell range extender; the Jeep Renegade, which has a diesel range extender, and the Dodge ZEO sports car.