For electric cars at Chrysler, the game won’t kick into high gear until 2011 and beyond. The Detroit automaker, which tapped A123Systems earlier this year to develop battery cells for upcoming electric vehicles, said in a meeting today detailing its five-year business plan that it’s working to introduce a test fleet of plug-in hybrid minivans and trucks in 2011 (a project supported by the Department of Energy) and possibly an all-electric vehicle in 2012. Over the long term, Chrysler powertrain chief Paolo Ferrero said, the company — now managed and partly owned by Italy’s Fiat SpA — will expand its lineup of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles “once they become a cost-effective proposition” for car buyers.
In the meantime, internal combustion engine vehicles will dominate the lineup, with increased focus on fuel efficiency using start-stop systems and Fiat engine technology. And while Fiat boasts small platform vehicles that could make good candidates for electrification, Chrysler will be taking the lead in engineering for hybrid and electrification for both companies.
Today’s Chrysler meeting — the first peek at the automaker’s finances and future plans since it emerged from government-funded bankruptcy — comes just over a year after Chrysler first unveiled plans for at least four electric vehicle models, including an all-electric Dodge EV, a range-extended electric Jeep and minivan, and a city vehicle. Back then, Chrysler aimed to have at least one of them on the market by 2010.
If Fiat and Chrysler eventually roll out more plug-in vehicles, A123Systems could be a front-runner for the contract. But an expanded electric lineup could also spur the allies to seek additional battery suppliers in coming years.