US: Chrysler hopes green concepts will cause ENVI

By just-auto.com editorial team | 16 January 2008

Chrysler's Detroit show media opening day cattle drive down the streets of the city grabbed the headlines - but it was a far cry from the sort of environmental message every automaker wants to get across.

But with the blue-collar Dodge Ram pick-up launch out of the way on day one, Chrysler was very definitely back on its green message on day two, with the launch of three alternative power concept cars - one for each of the group's three brands.

The cars are part of an initiative called ENVI - an in-house Chrysler division formed late last year to focus on establishing it as a leader in electric vehicles and other advanced propulsion systems. Headed by Lou Rhodes, ENVI has "an entrepreneurial, small company spirit" that can apply Chrysler's resources to EVs, hybrids and fuel cell cars.

ENVI has worked closely with Chrysler's advanced design division, headed by design director Trevor Creed, to apply the alternative power technologies to the three new concept cars, the Dodge ZEO, Chrysler ecoVoyager and Jeep Renegade. Each car has been designed to appeal to specific types of customer - though Chrysler believes all are environmentally responsible.

The Dodge ZEO is designed to appeal to driving enthusiasts who want a clean car without compromising performance. ZEO stands for Zero Emissions Operation, and the four-seater sports car is a pure EV with a 64kW-hour Lithium Ion battery pack giving a 250-mile range, while a 200kW electric motor gives a 0-60mph time of less than 6 seconds.

The Jeep Renegade is a lightweight two-seater that "takes treading lightly to a new extreme". It has an electric hybrid powertrain with a 200kW electric motor on each axle, giving all-electric four-wheel drive. As a pure EV, it has a 40-mile range, but a small 1.5-litre three-cylinder Bluetec diesel extends the range to 400 miles, with fuel economy of 110mpg.

The Chrysler ecoVoyager is probably closest to the sort of vehicle that Chrysler might in future build. It's fuel-cell electric car, again with a 200kW motor, intended to appeal to buyers looking for elegance and simplicity. A one-box design with no B-pillars, giving unobstructed access. The fuel cells give it a 300-mile range, and the only exhaust emission is water.

Trevor Creed said: "The cars are emotional designs that distinguish Chrysler from the pack. Will we build them? That depends on the reaction. But we'll definitely see these concepts in future vehicles."