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Local News / Automotive

Sunday, 16 November, 2008 7:26 AM

Chrysler's "Envi" team discusses Green vehicles at Automotive News conference

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

ENVI President Lou Rhodes addresses the Automotive News Green Car Conference on Nov. 13, 2008.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

NOVI, Mich. -- The 1st Annual Automotive News Green Car Conference was held at the Rock Financial Show place on Thursday in Novi, Mich. Lou Rhodes is the Vice President of Advance Vehicle Engineering and President of ENVI for Chrysler LLC. He indicated that Chrysler is actively developing three "green" vehicles including the Chrysler Town & Country, Jeep Wrangler and Dodge EV. Production versions of these new models should be on the road in 12-18 months.

"We started three years ago," said Rhodes. "We looked at future product portfolio in 2020. What do consumers want? Electrification of our fleet. We think we have right basic landscape. We underestimated rate of change with clean diesel. We're addressing new challenges. Looking for a quantum leap in fuel usage. Limited electric range for hybrids. All of our vehicles need to improve in energy demand."

The ENVI President said the division of Chrysler is looking to produce electric vehicles with no gasoline at all. He indicated the Jeep Wrangler EV would operate for 40 miles on an electric engine then gasoline would be used to charge the batteries. It will come with rear-wheel drive.

"A huge game-changer in the industry," Rhodes noted. "I'm proud of the ENVI team for production vehicles in 12-18 months. [A] Long-term viable business within Chrysler."

Rhodes said a hybrid version of the Dodge Durango is now available and that a hybrid version of the Aspen would be coming out at the end of the year.

Global Electric Motors (GEM) is a division owned by Chrysler. "It is the Number One electric vehicle producer," Rhodes said. "Not to keep quiet anymore." GEM vehicles offer a 30-mile range and extended range models are coming out in the next few years.

ENVI is working on producing city-electric vehicles with a range of 70-100 miles. These vehicles would be capable of holding two to five passengers and would have zero emissions. Rhodes calls these "a good entry point into other products."

The Town & Country Range-Extended Electric Vehicle will come with an electric generator and Lithium ion battery packs. It will release zero emissions and have a driving range of 40 miles.

The Dodge EV will be a battery-electric vehicle. It will go from zero to 60 mph in less than five seconds. Its driving range will be between 150 and 200 miles. Rhodes said Chrysler is looking at suppliers for the battery pack.

"Seventy-five percent of Americans drive less than 40 miles a day," Rhodes explained. "[We're] moving from hybrids to zero emissions. We showed ecoVoyager at the Detroit Auto Show. These are not concept cars. A series of developmental vehicles. Challenges regarding cost is something we realize. We do not want to compromise interior space."

Rhodes admits the urgency of successfully meeting ENVI's plans.

"Extending Chrysler's core business is one of ENVI's objectives. We have to do this quickly now to be competitive in the future. [We're] not going to introduce just a single model. Customers can provide us feedback to guide our development process at www.chryslergoeselectric.com. We have moved from vehicle segments to customer segments."

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) notes the importance of "Green" vehicles

Dr. Eladio Knipping is the Senior Technical Manager of Environment at the EPRI. He indicated that it will take a period of time before electric vehicles become a large part of all vehicle sales.

"Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) reduce greenhouse gases and lower petroleum dependency," Knipping said. "It will take time to penetrate the fleet -- 2010 to 2050 timeframe. New vehicle sales start slowly, ramp up progressively. By 2050, 60 percent of all vehicle sales are PHEV. Charging of vehicles primarily at night, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m."

Knipping added that there would be a move to charge these vehicles during the daytime. He said that there should be incentives in place for people to charge at night.

Electric vehicles will reduce or imports by 3-4 million barrels of oil per day. Knipping said power plant emissions will continue to decrease due to tighter federal regularly limits on emissions. He also noted that there would be benefits in air quality.

The question would ask if our nation's power grid could support everyone charging their electric vehicles.

"Yes, the grid can handle it," Knipping said. "A very modest increase. Enable use of off-peak power. Solar panels can charge cars. 6 p.m. is still peak time in summer. Delay charging til later. Education is key to smart charging."

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Peter Brown is the Associate Publisher and Editorial Director of Automotive News.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A luncheon was held in between speakers.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell Vehicle

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A look at the rear of the fuel cell vehicle.

 

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