Farmer Iron

Going Electric? Chrysler Makes a Statement

Got some interesting information from Chrysler in the past week that shows promise in the world of reduced emission ...

Got some interesting information from Chrysler in the past week that shows promise in the world of reduced emission vehicles - light-duty, but still interesting tech. The company has a division called ENVI that is a kind of skunkworks and apparently they've been hard at work behind the scenes in the world of electric vehicles.

 

While GM has been hard at it telling the world about the Volt and its impending launch in 2010, the ENVI team was busy taking similar ideas and spreading them across more than just one platform.

 

So this week, Chrysler and ENVI went public in a big way showing off their entries into the electric car market. In fact power comes from a 268-horsepower electric motor that drives all four wheels with plenty of torque. Then they put the motor into three vehicles.

 

First is a sports car based on a Lotus platform that can go from 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds. The car apparently has a 150-mile range on a single charge, but how practical is a two-seater in a market that's looking for an even better solution?

 

Second is a Jeep Wrangler - the four-door version - that uses the electric motor to power the wheels, but after 40 miles of emission free driving a small gas engine kicks in to power a generator for the batteries. So it's electric for up to 40 miles per day, but on a long trip a 10 gallon tank can help drive the car up to 400 miles. Do the math and the Wrangler, not known as a fuel sipper, would get 40 mpg!

 

Third is a Chrysler Town & Country mini van. It uses a system similar to the Wrangler and gets similar mileage. Again, a vehicle that on a good day, downhill might see 24 mpg, could be getting 40 mpg or more. And if you're only driving 40 miles per day or less, you won't burn gas at all.

 

Chrysler promises to bring one of the three to market by 2010 - it'll be interesting to see what they choose.

 

What bearing could this possibly have on the farm? First that Wrangler is full off-road capable, and the specs on that engine including more than 400 lb.-ft. of torque, which is plenty to pull the four-wheeler through a lot of territory. What if a system, obviously beefed up even more, could be deployed in a heavy duty pickup? Could we be talking about an around-the-farm hauler that gets 35 to 40 mpg?

 

Sure, hybrid pickups are coming to market, but they're what's called mild hybrids that boost mileage a bit. If U.S. automakers are going to save their bacon they need to crawl out of the steel box into which they've bolted themselves and bring radically new ideas to market. Why not a true hybrid with a diesel engine, you could talk some serious mileage improvement there.

 

On the farm a heavy duty class pickup is needed for some big jobs, but at least half the time that same truck is just going back and forth to town for errands. Lowering the cost of using such vehicles will be important for the future.

 

Chrysler's electric statement doesn't mean there will be a new electric pickup anytime soon - but some top-notch engineering and new thinking would be nice.

 

What kind of pickup truck are you looking for in the next five years? What features do you seek? Is better mileage something you want if you can get the same hauling capacity?

Take a look at the ENVI vehicles with this video, provided by Chrysler.

 

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