Chrysler FIAT Playing Catch-Up With Electrification

While Chrysler Fiat gets plenty of deserved credit for its alternative fuel and gas-engine-efficiency offerings — like the small EcoDiesel-powered Ram 1500 and the Multi-Air family of four-cylinders — there hasn’t been much of anything relating to electricity. In fact, beyond the Fiat 500e compliance car, the cupboard appears quite bare.

However, the company apparently realizes that it needs to play catch up and has partnered with smart minds at the non-profit NextEnergy to help. According to a story in WardsAuto, the pair are exploring things like inductive charging and a “reverse power flow battery setup.”

During a recent technical demonstration in Detroit, a car parked over an electrified inductive charging mat showed that “…the technology works flawlessly, wirelessly recharching an EV at the same level as a 240-volt power source.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise came from Mike Duhaime, Chrysler’s global director for electric powertrain propulsion systems, who confirmed that there was an interesting new product coming in only a couple years.

“We launched the 500e and we’re going to do a minivan PHEV,” he said. “And we have several mild hybrids we’re working on getting ready for production.”

The minivan Duhaime refers to is the upcoming Chrysler Town & Country, which will be built on an all-new platform and hitting streets sometime around 2016.

SEE ALSO: Fiat 500e Recalled For Power Inverter Module Issue

Duhaime didn’t reveal if or when inductive technology would be offered, but believes the system is an attractive one.

“The [power transfer] efficiencies were an issue early on, but I think we have that now, so that’s a key development,” he said. “It’s one of the things you look at with EVs and PHEVs, because for consumers it’s easier to drive over a pad.”

The reverse-flow technology is designed more for large fleets, and essentially allows fully-charged EVs that aren’t being used to dump their batteries power back into the energy grid during peak electricity times and then recharging them during off-peak hours for much less money. NextEnergy’s small fleet of four 500e’s managed to help cut its energy expenses by $1,200 during a test in July 2013.

“If you increase the number of vehicles to 12 you save $27,000 per year,” said Gary Gauthier, one of NextEnergy’s technology and market advisors. “Every building is going to be different. What we’re trying to understand is how variables play with each other to figure out what profiles make the best business case for Chrysler to be able to provide these vehicles to businesses.”

There are no firm plans on when the reverse-flow system might be introduced, but NextEnergy and Chrysler are going to be testing for at least another year — a four-season test — before any decisions are made.

GALLERY: Fiat 500e

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