Electric Vehicles

Chrysler Zaps Envi – Puts End to Electric Car Program

In 2008, as Chrysler’s financial position worsened, the automaker rolled out a handful of concept electric cars, declaring that these vehicles would comprise the company’s electrification effort. The Chrysler Town & Country EV, Jeep Wrangler EV and Dodge Circuit EV were among the vehicles put on display at car shows later that year in an effort to show that Chrysler was serious about building its own electric cars.

Chrysler Disconnected

Alas, that program has now been canceled, due in part to a number of events that took place in the ensuing months. Beginning with its first federal government bail out in December followed by additional bail outs, a government structured bankruptcy, and a joining together with Fiat, Chrysler’s outlook has changed dramatically, ending a program that some believed would transform Chrysler.

Then again there were a number of analysts, myself included, who took one look at the ENVI program and declared that the whole thing was vaporware. Specifically, some of us saw ENVI as Chrysler’s attempt to convince Congress to hand over the funds to keep the automaker in business.

Unplugging ENVI

When Chrysler announced its ENVI program in September 2008, green proponents hailed the move, expecting that the automaker would make good on its promises. Indeed, as a manufacturer of mostly truck type vehicles, Chrysler doesn’t have a reputation for producing fuel efficient, never mind environmentally-friendly vehicles. ENVI, on the other hand, promised to change all that. At least that is what some people hoped.

In reality, ENVI was nothing more than show ‘n tell, Chrysler’s way to advance its effort to secure taxpayer funding for its failed business. Two of the vehicles – the Chrysler Town & Country and Jeep Wrangler – were already in production, with Chrysler proposing that lithium-ion battery packs be incorporated in electrified versions of these vehicles.

The Dodge Circuit EV was a new model, a concept car designed and built for Chrysler by Lotus, the British sports car company. That vehicle was the “surprise” of the three, a beautifully designed two-seater some believed would eventually replace the Dodge Viper. In reality, the Circuit EV was one of many concepts under consideration, standing as much chance of seeing production as the Dodge Zeo. Which means the Circuit was just for show.

Fiat Connection

The biggest change for Chrysler is that the automaker has very few new models on tap and if it wasn’t for its budding relationship with Fiat, the company would have nothing new available after 2012. But, thanks to its connection with Fiat, a number of future Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models will share platforms, components and other parts with Fiat Group cars, giving these three brands a new lease on life.

Just don’t look for an electric vehicle in the mix because now that the ENVI show has ended, Chrysler and Fiat will be hard pressed to develop a few hybrids let alone full electric models.

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