Chrysler Unveils Secretly Developed Electric Cars

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Chrysler “plugged-in” the gauntlet on Tuesday, unveiling a secret lineup of electric vehicles, pledging to bring at least one of them to showrooms within two years.

In 2007, Chrysler announced the launch of a program called ENVI aimed at developing electric cars, but other than a few nonrunning concepts displayed at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, not much information on the project had leaked out since. Now, in a move aimed at cheering up the company’s employees and stealing the spotlight from the recently introduced Chevy Volt, Chrysler is showing its hand to the world.

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The most exciting of the three, the two-seat Dodge EV, is a pure electric sports car with a range of 150 to 200 miles on a full charge. Looking suspiciously like the $109,000 Tesla Roadster, the Dodge is clearly based on the same Lotus-sourced platform that underpins that exotic electric. With advanced lithium-ion batteries powering a 268-horsepower motor, it can accelerate from 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds.

For the family, the Chrysler EV is a reengineered Town and Country minivan that Chrysler claims will be able to travel 40 miles on electric power alone. Similar to the Volt, it also carries a small gasoline engine on board that can charge the batteries and extend the range of the vehicle to up to 400 miles, at an average of 50 miles per gallon.

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The Jeep EV is a four-door Wrangler Unlimited that uses the same gas-electric power combination as the minivan, but with four electric motors — one for each wheel — that give it the kind of off-road capability buyers have come to expect from the brand.

Projected prices were not revealed, and Chrysler is not saying which of the vehicles will be the first to come to market. But the company says it will have 100 of them on the road in test fleets in 2009, along with its latest entry into the growing neighborhood electric vehicle segment, the Peapod. This small four-seat bubble car has a top speed of 25 miles per hour and is aimed mainly at residents of gated communities, who will be able to drive it up to 30 miles on a charge.

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