Dodge Circuit

By the fall of 2008, it was hardly a secret that Chrysler was the weakest of the Detroit Three automakers. So its surprise unveiling of three prototype electric and hybrid vehicles was nothing less than a bombshell—as was its pledge that at least one of them would go into production by the end of 2010.

That vehicle will likely be an electric sports coupe, revealed then as the Dodge EV. The same car, with a new name—the Dodge Circuit—reappeared at January’s Detroit auto show. By that time, it had acquired new front and rear panels, giving it a “unique, fearless Dodge design” with a strong family resemblance to the legendary Viper V-10 sports car—minus the exhaust pipes, of course.

A restyled Circuit hadn’t been expected at the show, where it appeared beside three Chrysler vehicles adapted to electric or series hybrid drive: the familiar electric-drive Chrysler Town & Country minivan and Jeep Wrangler, and a newly unveiled series-hybrid Jeep Patriot crossover. Those vehicles, warn industry analysts, are highly unlikely to be built as shown.

Electric Performance

The Circuit, however, is considered more viable—at least in low volumes. Underneath the sleek lines is a vehicle based on the Lotus Europa unveiled at the 2006 London Motor Show, just as the Tesla Roadster uses basic structures and components from the Lotus Elise.

It’s a good formula: Start with a lightweight, mid-engine Lotus sports car, remove the engine, and add a large battery pack and electric motor. In this case, the Circuit has a 200-kilowatt (268-hp) electric motor powered by a lithium ion battery pack of unspecified size.

Like the Dodge Viper it alludes to, the Circuit is a “halo vehicle” that’s all about performance. It’s said to do 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds, with a top speed of more than 120 miles per hour. The quoted range is 150 to 200 miles; as with all cars, range depends on how aggressively it’s driven.

The Circuit carries over much of the Europa’s cockpit fittings and instrumentation. Two analog gauges are supplemented by a digital display for data on the operation of the electric-drive system.

A CAR Magazine road test of the Circuit called the handling “nimble and rewarding” despite an increased rear weight bias, though it said the Europa’s wind and road roar was far more pronounced with the relative silence of the electric motor.

Saved by a Halo Car?

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Circuit appeared on page 135 of Chrysler’s 2009 recovery plan, filed with the US government in February to support its application for loan guarantees.

It’s just two words on page 135, but in the list of production vehicles for 2011, it says “EV roadster.” Not Circuit, not “EV coupe,” but roadster—leading Dodge fans all over the country to hope the new electric sports car might be closer in spirit to an earlier concept, the Dodge Demon shown to great acclaim in 2007.

By most definitions, a roadster has a collapsible or removable top—think British sports cars like the MGB—whereas a coupe has a fixed roof—think James Bond’s classic Aston Martin DB-6.

The Demon was a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive roadster, similar to the Mazda Miata or Pontiac Solstice. While the styling was aggressive, its powertrain broke no new ground. Asked to clarify, Chrysler spokesperson Nick Cappa shed no further light on the issue. He said, “We’re really not commenting on anything [in the plan].”

The bigger question is whether a low-volume, presumably pricey sports car—regardless of its roof—really helps the company with its financial recovery. The company has a great need for fuel-efficient sedans and crossovers that regular consumers will buy. For those vehicles (electric or not), Chrysler seems likely to rely on its putative partner FIAT—if indeed it manages to survive as an independent company at all.

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Dodge Circuit
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  • Bail Me Out

    “The bigger question is whether a low-volume, presumably pricey sports car—regardless of its roof—really helps the company with its financial recovery.”

    Of course not. But Chrysler has to appear developing alternative energy cars to receive the bail, even if it meant a car that is not affordable by the common people.

    BTW I have a billion $ car that will be ready in 2015 if the gov would just loan me few billions right now… hehehe

  • David B McManus

    The big 3 should go bankrupt, then green interest will make cars for the average person. Electric cars have been KILLED by the OIL companies for a 100 years or more, It is time that Thomas Edison invention of the electric car go forward, and not by the greedy OIL companies’ companies but by grass roots entrepreneurs that really make America great.

  • GR

    Say what you want about the big three, but when they put their minds to it they really can make a beautiful car.

  • Tony

    A beautiful car is all well and good but fuel economy should be more inportant at this time. The less fuel the car uses the better. If the car was electric then that would be better yet. Put function before form,it wont be popular but it will make an impact.

  • B. Nicholson

    Wide open wheel wells and no boat tail suggest this Dodge circuit needs design help from a competent aerodynamicist. Really, Chrysler, big stupid wheels and crazy anti-aerodynammic ‘styling’ must become a thing of the past.

  • sean t

    B. Nicholson must have relation w/ Ross Nicholson at some previous posts.
    Yeah, the wheels are a bit big but I’m not too obsessed w/ wheel covering…

    And should we give money to a beggar who continues to waste our money?

  • crut

    Totally agree GR. Issue will be whether or not they can produce it for a semi-reasonable price and if it can actually go as far as they state on a charge. If it can I’d cancel my order fora Karma and “go Big 3”.

  • Bobbi

    Yeah, price is going to be a big issue …

  • dc

    This car is based on a Lotus Europa, a car available now in Europe. It’s a Lotus.. Of course it looks good. 😀 Lotus’ engineering concept is very simple, add lightness to increase speed. This results in increased efficiency. Some aerodynamic drag is necessary to accomplish high performance handling, as well as to attract prospective buyers. I think Dodge’s plans to develop this vehicle is at least a step in the right direction. If they are so behind in hybrid technology, support the leap to full EV. With solar panels and a windmill on my house, I’d love to replace my Lotus with a full electric car. The Prius will be reserved for longer drives (where it’s fule economy is maximized)

  • AP

    David B McManus , Thomas Edison himself told Henry Ford that the electric car had no chance against Ford’s gasoline-powered one, due to its range, economy, quick re-fueling, light weight, etc., etc., etc. That has remained true up to now.

  • Bob Plugh

    B. Nicholson – I’m not so sure about your statement. First, these are only preliminary photos. I’m sure a dozen things (well, a lot more than that actually) could change before production. But, beyond that, looking at the car using the other views, I think it’s pretty clear that they have done more than a token amount of aerodynamic design.

    I’d love to see what the current body does in a windtunnel as shown and, what it looks like when it ships.


  • nice car

    its nice, im thinking of getting one in the near future

  • Live Wire

    I think it looks pretty sweet. Reminds me of the Mitsubishi Eclipse.

  • Jason

    I think it looks pretty sweet.. Reminds me of the Mitsubishi Eclipse.

  • walker

    The big three have been getting money from the oil producing countries for years to keep fuel milage low on the cars they produce. A team of my students have taken a 4 cyl. engine out of a Stratus that was getting 27mpg. and with parts you can buy off the shelf was able to make it acheive 38mpg. they are making too much money from the opec nations to change.

  • tapra1

    The same car, with a new name—the Dodge Circuit—reappeared at January’s Detroit auto show.eCommerce Hosting Reviews

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