Chrysler was recently highly criticized for its $3/gallon gas for 3 years gimmick. Rather than make their cars more efficient and environmentally friendly, it seemed like they were just encouraging people to continue wasting money on gas guzzlers.
But now the company seems to have made a rather dramatic change. Chrysler announced that they're working on 3 electric vehicles.
One of them is to be very similar to the Tesla Roadster - a sporty, fully electric car, based on a Lotus design. It will go 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds, top speed of 120+ mph, and range of 150-200 miles per charge. They've said it will cost less than the Roadster, but not how much less, which suggests it will be quite pricey.
The other 2 models are quite intriguing. Both are range-extended electric vehicles (like the Chevy Volt). One is based on the Jeep Wrangler, and will have an all-electric range of 40 miles per charge, with a range extension of 400 miles in hybrid mode on 8 gallons of gas. The other is a minivan with the same spects as the Wrangler. Both vehicles would meet the needs of a large segment of the population with few green car options, which is very cool.
Further, Chrysler is planning on producing one of the three vehicles in late 2010, although they haven't revealed which one.
What puzzles me is how Chrysler is planning on getting that kind of performance out of the Jeep and minivan. They're quoting the same performance as the Volt - 40 miles per charge and then 50 mpg in hybrid mode. But the Volt just had to change its body design to become more aerodynamic in order to meet the 40 miles per charge. Perhaps Chrysler is using more batteries, but I don't see how they can get the 50 mpg in hybrid mode that more aerodynamic cars like the Prius and Volt can barely achieve. I suspect once the cars approach production, the extended range specs will come down, because minivans and Jeeps are not exactly aerodynamic bodies.
Nevertheless, it's great to see Chrysler moving in this direction.