Research activities include development of technologies that can be used in a range of electric vehicles, including conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fully electric and range-extended electric vehicles. A conventional hybrid vehicle includes both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor to propel the vehicle, and the battery is charged using the combustion engine. A plug-in hybrid vehicle is similar to a conventional hybrid vehicle, but the battery can also be charged through an external power cord. A fully electrified vehicle contains only an electric motor to propel the vehicle that is charged by a power cord, and a range-extended vehicle is a fully electrified vehicle that also contains a generator to power the vehicle when the batteries run low. With respect to these advanced technologies, Chrysler is creating modular solutions that can be utilized across various types of electrified vehicles.
Additionally, significant effort is focused on optimizing existing combustion engine technology to make it synergistic with hybrid electric vehicle technology, and addressing cost reduction strategies to ensure the affordability of such vehicles in the future.
In the U.S., Chrysler is currently developing a fully-electrified version of the Fiat 500 with a 100 mile range, using battery technology developed by Chrysler Group. Due to its compact size and weight, the Fiat 500 is particularly well-suited for electric technology. Chrysler plans to design, manufacture and sell this version of the Fiat 500 in North America. Production is scheduled to begin in 2012.
In 2010, a 3-year demonstration project for a Ram truck plug-in hybrid was launched. This rear-wheel drive vehicle is equipped with a lithium ion battery and has a zero-emission, pure electric operating range of 20 miles. For the demonstration project, Chrysler has begun testing a portion of the 140 trucks it plans to run in various climates. A similar front-wheel drive vehicle demonstration project is also being conducted using a minivan.
Finally, development of non-electrified hybrid vehicles is currently being explored. In 2010, Chrysler partnered with the EPA to develop and study a hybrid powertrain that will operate using hydraulic power coupled with a gasoline engine. This hybrid hydraulic powertrain study will be aimed at light-duty vehicle applications.
As for alternative fuels, in early 2013, a Jeep Grand Cherokee with diesel engine will be introduced in North America. This version of one of the Group’s best-selling vehicles is expected to provide significantly improved fuel economy. Chrysler and Fiat are also exploring the potential for vehicles utilizing compressed natural gas and other alternative fuel sources.