ENVI-able? Chrysler Adds Jeep Patriot to EV Mix
Not long after GM made a splash with the debut of its near-production Chevrolet Volt last September, in a somewhat surprising counter move, Chrysler fired back with a trio of extended-range electric vehicles of its own. After several highly-publicized reveals, including at last November's Los Angeles auto show, Chrysler drove the trio back to the paint booth to freshen them up for the 2009 Detroit show, adding an electrified Jeep Patriot along the way.
In an effort to keep costs down and flexibility up, the Jeep Patriot EV reportedly shares the same electric vehicle architecture found in the Jeep Wrangler EV, Chrysler Town & Country EV and the Lotus-based Dodge EV sports car -- now known as the Dodge Circuit EV. Each uses a lithium-ion battery pack that can be rearranged to fit their application, rather than adapting the vehicle around the batteries. Each is also powered by electric motors from the same family, reducing complexity between models. And with the exception of the Circuit EV, all of them use small gasoline engines to generate electricity once the battery packs have been drained to 30% of their power.
The Patriot EV does have a few notable differences. Where the other three utilize a 200kW (268 hp) electric motor to drive the wheels, the Patriot EV uses a less-powerful 150kW (200 hp) motor. Also downsized is the gasoline engine that will generate electricity to drive the wheels once the batteries have been depleted. The Wrangler and Town & Country EVs both use a 94-hp gasoline engine, but the Patriot EV makes do with a 60-hp unit. At this point, the displacement of each engine is still unknown. Despite being down on power, Chrysler says the Patriot EV will have the same 40-mile all-electric range and 400-mile gasoline-assisted range as the Wrangler and Town & Country EVs. Like its three counterparts, the Patriot EV also uses regenerative braking to recover electricity to recharge the batteries. Chrysler claims its system can recover up to 85% of the energy used in braking.
The smaller engine and motor combo doesn't appear to have hurt the Patriot EV's performance either. Chrysler estimates the Patriot will hit 60 mph in about eight seconds and run the quarter-mile in the low-sixteen second range on its way to a top speed of "greater than 100 mph." That performance is identical to Chrysler's estimated performance of the Town & Country EV and slightly quicker than the Wrangler EV.
To differentiate it from a standard Patriot, the Patriot EV has also been to the paint booth where it's been covered in ENVI Green Pearl paint, big EV logos on the sides and some ENVI badges. It's also picked up a unique set of wheels and some slick roof racks with low-profile fog lights mounted up front.
While the Patriot EV is the star of Chrysler's line-up for Detroit, the Dodge Circuit EV has also picked up some new attention-getting features. In addition to the can't-miss-it "Tangoreen" orange paint and big decals, the newly-christened Circuit EV has undergone a fascia lift, with a Dodge-standard crosshair grille affixed to the front of the car. The new mug actually works fairly well on the Circuit, lending it look reminiscent of a baby Viper. Inside, the Circuit EV sports a new black leather interior with Satin Silver accents. Mechanically, though, the Circuit appears unchanged from the vehicle we drove late last year.
Also receiving minimal changes for their Detroit re-debut are the Jeep Wrangler EV and Chrysler Town & Country EV. Each is unchanged mechanically, but both have been freshened up with new paint jobs and graphics. The Wrangler has been recoated in ENVI Green Pearl paint to match its Patriot EV stable mate, while the Town & Country EV has been refinished in Liquid Graphite Pearl. Both feature large EV graphics on their sides and new ENVI badges.
To date, Chrysler has not provided exact performance numbers or for any of the four ENVI vehicles, nor has it divulged curb weight or specifics about how its powertrain will actually work. The company has said that one of the four will enter production in 2010 with the other three following by 2013, but it hasn't said what order they'll be built in. The company has also not divulged how long it will take to charge any of the vehicles, saying only that they can be charged from a standard 110-volt wall socket, and that the charging time can be halved by using a 220-volt socket.
It's going to take a lot more than some new paint jobs and graphics before Chrysler's skeptics actually start believing it can pull off what it's claiming it can. While its ENVI effort certainly sounds promising, there are numerous questions still left unanswered. Hopefully Chrysler start offering up more specifics about its electrified future during the Detroit show.