Chrysler Plans for Hybrids, EVs and Natural Gas Vehicles, Probably

Last November, FIAT-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and his lieutenants spent a long day laying out the details of their plans for a new Chrysler that would compete on all fronts, including cars that would compete in a growing field of hybrid and electric cars. Since then, an electric version of the FIAT 500 has made the round of auto shows—and is scheduled to go on sale in 2012. The company also announced plans for a small test fleet of Dodge Ram plug-in hybrid pickups—backed by a $48 million Department of Energy grant. (The conventional hybrid version of the Ram was canceled, after years of development.) And, of course, the company still sells the GEM, a line of neighborhood electric vehicles. Other than that, the company has been silent on its green car plans while it struggles to right its balance sheets and bring new volume product to market.

At the Automotive News Detroit Green Car Conference last week, Paulo Ferrero, Chrysler’s senior vice president for powertrain, might have elaborated on the company’s strategy for electrification—since speakers from Nissan, BMW and Think were talking about their companies’ EV strategies already being implemented. His presentation did include a slide or two on plug-ins, but with no new information other than a commitment to “develop a range of technologies for hybrid/electrification across various platforms.” That’s pretty vague and clearly not a commitment to deliver vehicles on a timeline with the competition.

Ferrero did drop a big surprise: natural gas vehicles! It turns out FIAT has CNG powertrains in a full range of vehicles already in Europe (where government incentives and utility support make them an attractive option) and they might find their way over here—along with multi-air engines and a variety of improvements to gas-powered engines and transmissions promising a 25 percent overall fleet average fuel economy improvement for Chrysler’s fleet by 2014.


  • Samie

    Chrysler??? Oh I remember.

    Two shocking things here
    1. Chrysler got a $48 million Department of Energy grant.
    2. Sucking people in with a CNG vehicle. Here is an idea for Chrysler/Fiat why not offer a small block diesel engine for their standard sized Ram. But like most diesel engine schemes, they are usually designated for luxury 30-40k trucks.

    Sorry for being cynical but I have little faith in Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Fiat. Overall, a terrible vehicle line-up in the last five years and they got caught with their pants down by discontinuing or not introducing more fuel efficient vehicles. Is the hybrid Ram the old crappy two-mode system? This story feels like it was rehashed from GM/BMW/Chrysler hype back in the early 2000s, kind of sad….

    Again, sorry for being cynical.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    I just took a Prius taxi from the airport home last week. The driver told me that he preferred his new Prius to his CNG Ford Crown Victoria because the limited range (~200 miles) meant he often had to turn down fares for long (and profitable) trips if he didn’t have a full tank. The scarcity of CNG stations adds to this problem.
    Also, the CNG Crown Vic loses much of it’s trunk space with the big CNG tank.
    He also commented on the smoother drive and better acceleration of the Prius and said he gets better tips in his Prius than he did in his Crown Vic.
    CNG is quite low in energy density (Whr/liter) compared with gasoline and the Crown Vic gets terrible mpg.
    I suspect that a fast charging EVs with 200 miles of range or more will be great for taxis since they spend a lot of their time in airport Taxi queues where fast charging could be easy to install.

  • veek

    Natural gas vehicles? I have spent several weeks this year in India, where many of the ubiquitous little tricycle taxis and municipal buses were converted to CNG years ago. The experience of being stuck in traffic behind one of the CNG vehicles is far less unpleasant than being stuck behind one of the behemoth diesel trucks that often ply the roads there, and I can only imagine what the previous two-stroke taxi engines must have smelled like. I can’t back this up with hard data, but people I spoke with said the air quality has improved since the shift to CNG. Although conventional natural gas exploration is hardly green, CNG could probably be recycled from organic waste more easily than diesel, although that still may not be practical yet. It may be a nice option, though, although it may not translate as easily to the American roads as to the Indian ones.

  • JamesDavis

    Chrysler, GM, and Ford – I do not understand why you think that the electric and hybrid has to look like it belongs in a circus with clowns crawling out of them and still with really terrible gas millage. Did you hire Ringling-Brother’s clowns to design them for you?

    You keep up the good work and Nissan will out sell all your electric and hybrids by a landslide again…like they have always done in the past with your fossil fuel vehicles. …You just can’t teach an old dog new tricks….

  • Dom

    Chrysler/Fiat – why in the world are you testing a hybrid Ram?? Just look at the poor sales of GM’s hybrid 1/2 ton. Who cares if you can plug it in. Better idea – small diesel in the 1/2 tons. Cummins has one ready on the shelf right now, developed with the Ram 1/2 ton in mind. That is the truck you need to get to the dealers. What are you waiting for???????

  • jose ramon elias a

    All we need is to change the explosion form in the conventional vehicles, so that we can rise high levels in low contaminant emission

  • Emma

    Sounds interesting! But I wonder how natural gas-run cars work? I am very glad that I heard something about Fiat going to make a 500/500c in electric form in the future. Fiat all the way! They are so innovative in creating commercial vehicles that aren’t so polluting the world like other cars!

  • Mpurintun

    The benefits of CNG are tremendous. If we used our own CNG it would be the largest economic stimulus this country has ever seen, keeping all of that money here in America supporting jobs here. I would suggest Chrysler introduce some CNG vehicles in areas like PA, OH and Oklahoma where the CNG boom is the biggest right now. When coupled with hybrid technology it should be a no brainer.

  • ulisse di bartolomei

    Speaking about the Fiat hybrids, the technology double clutch with electric motor between has been stolen by a patent that Fiat Company has never wanted to purchase, but only shamelessly to copy. I invite to visit my blog where her “vitality” of the Fiat planners it appears in all of evidence:
    http://dualsymbioticelectromechanicalengine.blogspot.com/

    Whoever appreciates an honest industrial ethics in defence of intellectual ownership should spread out the history reported in my blog. If the industries can afford unpunished to copy the ideas and defending it need very expensive legal action, to which target need the patents? How our young people can find intellectual courage if the economic potentates crush the rights of the single ones?
    whoever has a good idea on as I could act for defending my rights I beg him to leave a comment in my blog. Thanks and good time to everybody.

    Ulisse Di Bartolomei

  • ulisse di bartolomei

    The Fiat patent fraud. About the Fiat hybrids, the technology double clutch with electric motor between has been stolen by a patent that Fiat Company has never wanted to purchase, but only shamelessly to copy. This hybrid solution will be the basic technology with Chrysler’s electric and hybrid car program. Please give a look in my blog where her “vitality” and boldness of the Fiat planners it appears in all of evidence: http://dualsymbioticelectromechanicalengine.blogspot.com/
    If the industries can afford unpunished to copy the ideas and defending it need very expensive trial, to which target need the patents? How our young people can find intellectual courage if the economic potentates crush the rights of the single ones? How to defend the rights of private inventors? Whoever is about to ask for a patent or wants to propose a proper patent to a great firm I suggest to give a look to my experience with the Fiat, to get able to operate with best adroitness. Thanks and good time to everybody. Ulisse Di Bartolomei