Chrysler Surprises With Extended Range EVs--And I Drive One.

Posted by: David Kiley on September 23, 2008

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I have driven electric vehicles before, so driving one of Chrysler’s forthcoming extended range electric vehicles was no big surprise.

[Read the story online]

When I got behind the wheel of a converted Mercedes M Class “mule” that contains the same system as is deployed in the Wrangler ENVI and Town & Country ENVI,one of which Chrysler will launch in late 2010, I was looking for power and smoothness. I was short of time and couldn’t wait my turn for the actual minivan or Wrangler, but Chrysler assures me the driving impression would have been the same.

I pushed the button for D. Nothing. No sound. Oh yeah….it’s electric. My hairdryer doesn’t make a sound either unless I switch it on. In this case, that means stepping on the juice pedal. Vrooooooom. Off we go. Okay, maybe not “vrooooom.” There was a short rumble that sounded like my stomach, but it was actually a vacuum pump engaging. But one of the things the automakers are talking about is dialing in some sound to the cars so we do get a little bit of “vrooooom,” and blind people can actually hear when we are driving to up to an intersection.

Around a few cones and on to a test track. I clock 0-60 in 8.9 seconds, a hair faster than what Chrysler says it will do.

I am not taking it 40 miles on the test track to see the change-over to gas. I will do that on another day.

And I’m driving…silently. I’m waiting to see if I feel any let-down, and punkishness in speed. There’s none. This car, driving on electricity, is flat out every bit as fast and responsive as a gas car, but with many more benefits.

I have not yet driven a Tesla or the Chevy Volt. But I admit, I am in the tank for this technology. The idea of driving 40 miles a day on battery power I can take from the grid in the middle of the night when electricity is cheapest is a breakthrough anyone would be and should be ready to embrace, especially if there is no tradeoff. Rush Limbaugh whines about the U.S. moving to a society where “we are all driving golf carts.” Eat my battery dust Limbaugh!

I can already see the ad for the Chevy Volt or the Jeep Wrangler ENVI. A 60-second ad showing the same guy gassing up his SUV over and over again when petrol is $5 a gallon. The guy driving the Volt or Wrangler arrives ahead of him to get the last Springsteen tickets (he didn’t have to stop for gas). His kid gets the last spot on team ahead of his gas-hog SUV neighbor (he was late because they had to stop for gas). He waves to his neighbor while he is gassing up at the BP station. The graphic comes on the screen: “Three months. Springsteen tickets. Never late. Lost six pounds (no stops at the c-store for donuts). No stops to buy gas. What are you waiting for?

The only downside I can see to this technology is how some unscrupulous drivers may try and scam electricity. I can see it now…Good neighbor Sam arrives for a bbq at my house in his Volt or Minivan ENVI. “Hey Dave…mind if I hook up to your outdoor outlet for a bit…I’m a little low.” What am I going to say? No?

On the other hand, I can see companies installing some recharging stations at their company parking lots to green up their images, and offer free recharging as a recruiting tool, or as a reward for achieving employees.

There is plenty of cynicism in the auto media about plug-in extended range electric vehicles. But not on my blog.

Reader Comments

Schmeltz

September 24, 2008 12:24 PM

David Kiley said: "There is plenty of cynicism in the auto media about plug-in extended range electric vehicles. But not on my blog."

Amen, brother! It is so refreshing to read some positive viewpoints such as this regarding the coming EV revolution. When an EV is done right, it shows that it can be efficient AND fun to drive; a no-compromise package.

Well done and well said!

Larry Schadle

September 24, 2008 2:42 PM

where do I sign up tp be in on the trials for these electric cars?

flyerbry

September 25, 2008 12:19 AM

I agree with your sentiments concerning plug-in hybrids. However, I don't agree with your assertion that all SUV drivers choose not to be green. This is an ignorant comment I see often from the automotive press. I drive an SUV due to the fact that I have to drive a vehicle with a third row. A minivan isn't a workable alternative in my opinion as my brother-in-law only gets 1 mpg better in his FWD minivan than I do in my AWD SUV. The current problem with electric vehicles is they are all too small for us who require more seating. The only current hybrid that will meet my needs is the very pricy Tahoe Hybrid. The minivan in your article is a definite step in the right direction but I'm still waiting for a plug-in crossover that will meet my needs. It would only make sense for GM to use the technology in the Volt and apply it to their midsize crossovers.

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