Chrysler Portal Electric Minivan Concept Shown at CES

Today Chrysler unveiled its autonomous-capable 250-mile range Portal electric minivan Concept at CES, but how close it is to production could be a mystery.

The new electric vehicle is said to have the latest in touch screens, ports, and social media options to find interest from millennial car buyers, and for those fascinated with electric, self-driving vehicles coming to market.

A six-passenger minivan, the Portal “explores the possibility of what a family transportation vehicle could look like,” said the automaker. That is, it would be an urban mobility vehicle of the future – combining connectivity with electrification and automation, offering a third environment after home and the office.

As reported in Automotive News, FCA has been behind competitors complying with government guidelines such as the U.S. fuel economy and emissions standards. The Chrysler Portal electric minivan, once produced at mass scale, could join the new Chrysler Pacific Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid vehicle, but FCA has lagged behind companies such as General Motors, Ford, Nissan, Honda, BMW, and Tesla in plug-in electrified vehicle offerings. Larger gas consuming vehicles including Ram pickups and Jeeps have had more dedicated engineering and design resources than electrified and small, fuel-efficient cars.

FCA hasn’t given a timeline so far on when the Portal would come to market. The concept vehicle could be appealing to drivers navigating narrow urban environments, which Nissan has been planning to roll out by the end of the decade.

Chrysler-Portal-Concept-23

The Portal electric minivan would have its battery packs built into the floor to open up space and functionality. A fast charger could add another 150 miles of range through a 20-minute charge, the company predicts.

The Pacifica Hybrid, which is now available to buyers, has been given a rating of 33 miles in battery only range. FCA last month delivered 100 Pacifica plug-in hybrid to Waymo, formerly Google’s self-driving car project, for testing.

That test project may help FCA sell more technology rich, expensive vehicles like the Portal.

“It could help them charge more for everything they sell,” said Mike Ramsey, research director at Gartner.

That may be a few years out.

Not long ago, FCA’s CEO Sergio Marchionne had been driven by paying down what is now $6.5 billion in corporate debt; those efforts have included looking for major automakers to create an alliance and share the debt and wealth. Marchionne warned in 2015 that FCA and other automakers need to merge to be able to afford technologies like autonomous and electric cars.

Fuel economy and emissions rules will become more stringent in the U.S. and other important automotive markets. FCA had been criticized for only rolling out a limited number of Fiat 500-e electric cars in California and Oregon to be compliant with state rules and increasing federal standards.

The Portal electric minivan is grabbing attention at CES 2017, but it’s only a concept vehicle at this point.


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