More Chrysler Electric Cars Coming, Lots Of Catching Up Needed

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2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

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Now that Chrysler-Fiat reluctantly has the surprising good 2013 Fiat 500e--its first electric car--on the market, what's next for the smallest of the Detroit Three?

There will be more plug-in vehicles, according to an interview in the Detroit Free Press with Mike Duhaime, the company's global director for electrified propulsion and engineering.

Chrysler remains deep within the process of recovering from its 2009 bankruptcy and subsequent takeover by Italy's Fiat.

Its first car on a platform shared with Fiat, the 2012 Dodge Dart compact sedan, hasn't been the runaway success the company hoped, but it seems to be gathering momentum.

Its second such car, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, will arrive at dealers this fall to replace the discontinued Jeep Liberty model.

And following that will come mid-size sedan replacements for the Chrysler 200 (nee Sebring) and Dodge Avenger.

'BEVs in our future'

In other words, Chrysler has to relearn how to make passenger cars again before it can worry about niceties like hybrids and plug-in electric cars.

But, Duhaime says, they are coming: "There are battery electric vehicles in our future," he told the Free Press.

They might simply be compliance cars for the next round of California zero-emission vehicle sales requirements, from 2015 through 2017 (the Fiat 500e meets the first round, for model years 2012 through 2014).

Ram 1500 Plug-In Hybrid pickup truck and Chrysler Town & Country plug-in hybrid minivan, April 2012

Ram 1500 Plug-In Hybrid pickup truck and Chrysler Town & Country plug-in hybrid minivan, April 2012

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Or they might be something far more ambitious. Duhaime said very little of substance that would indicate what kinds of cars those might be.

Start-stop technology, which he mentioned is now offered on the company's large Ram 1500 Pickup, is a side issue that does not involve plugging in the car.

The other topic raised by Duhaime--so-called vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-house power, in which an electric car can return some of its battery energy either to the grid or to power a household--is at best a side issue to whether or not the company will offer more than token plug-in cars.

Hybrids not mentioned

Notably absent from discussions of Duhaime's electrified-vehicle portfolio were the two hybrid Chrysler models that were expected to be in dealers by now.

One was a Chrysler 300 Hybrid sedan, expected to arrive for the 2013 or 2014 model year--it didn't--and the second was a hybrid minivan on about the same schedule, both promised by CEO Sergio Marchionne back in January 2011.

The 300 sedan did receive the new transmission--and eight-speed automatic--also promised for this year by Marchionne, and a nine-speed automatic will appear as an option in the new Jeep Cherokee.

Of the hybrids themselves, however, we've heard essentially nothing.

The company has, however, added a clean-diesel V-6 engine to two of its light truck offerings for 2014, the Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel and the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

All of this means there's still quite a lot more to come over the next few years from the ever-evolving Chrysler-Fiat product plan.

Stay tuned.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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