Well this one caught a lot of people napping. Turns out that Chrysler actually has some electric vehicle plans of its own, and they plan to show them to their dealers this week. Update: Chrysler showed off an all electric Dodge EV, a range-extended Jeep and a minivan and plans for a city vehicle on Tuesday — no ecoVoyager, though. Check out our post here.
As far as American automakers are concerned, it’s not exactly the best of times. And after Chrysler was dumped by Daimler and then taken over by buyout firm Cerberus, a lot of gearheads started to think that the Big Three would soon be the Big Two.
But what’s this? Not only is Chrysler showing signs of life, but it’s jumping into the EV game, and jumping in with both feet. Although the company is being secretive with the details, it does have plans to preview a number of eco-friendly cars to dealers this week, including possibly the Chrysler RE-EV ecoVoyager.
The ecoVoyager isn’t the same kind of electric vehicle that is starting to hit the market via early movers like Tesla, or even series hybrids, like Chevy’s Volt. Chrysler has chosen to work on a hydrogen fuel cell, a technology that’s been in the labs of car companies for years. Using hydrogen means no emissions, and hydrogen can be easily produced using a variety of means. Though it’s also one of the more expensive options out there, and after seeing the failed attempts of California to launch a “hydrogen highway,” fuel cell vehicles seem significantly farther away than other green car alternatives.
Here’s how the power train of the ecoVoyager’s hydrogen fuel cell works: There are two surprisingly powerful electric motors that send 268 HP to the front wheels. They get juice from a lithium-ion battery pack (which has a battery range of 40 miles) and the batteries get a charge via the hydrogen fuel cell, which keeps its hydrogen in two tanks under massive pressure at the very back of the vehicle. All these mechanical bits and bobs are mounted low, essentially beneath the floor, meaning the ecoVoyager is very space efficient and has room for four full-sized adults.
The vehicle itself is shaped like a swoopy, rounded minivan. Essentially it’s a highly stylized one-box design reminiscent of a scarab (the insect, not the sports car), and has all the amenities that American drivers, circa 2008, are looking for (AC, radio, that sort of stuff).
Apart from actually bringing a working fuel cell vehicle to market, that styling could prove to be Chrysler’s biggest hurdle. Consumers can be notoriously fussy over styling; look at what happened to the Ford Edsel. And unlike Ford in the 50s, Chrysler also has to make the ecoVoyager (or any other green car) a viable economic proposition.
The ecoVoyager could be the car that puts Chrysler back in the game. Although the other car companies are focusing more on current EV technology, so the ecoVoyager could also set Chrysler back…again.