Chrysler Minivans May Be First to Receive Electric Touch

2008 Chrysler Envi Town & Country Prototype

Which of the three Chrysler electric vehicle prototypes will be the first to reach production? It's anyone's guess, but company officials strongly suggest it'll be a minivan.

During a press conference held to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the minivan, Douglas Quigley, the engineer in charge of Chrysler's ENVI electric vehicle operation, suggested a minivan might be the first vehicle to bear the fruits of ENVI's labor. Earlier this year, Chrysler showcased three different electric prototypes to the media. Though a Lotus-based Dodge sports car and a hybrid Jeep Wrangler were also shown, a Chrysler Town & Country, modified to be an extended-range electric vehicle, was also on display. According to Quigley, the minivan has yielded the most consumer response.

There are other factors that make Chrysler's minivans a logical first choice. From an engineering standpoint, the van offers space to package the electric powertrain without intruding upon the interior cabin. On the ENVI Town & Country demonstrator, engineers used the area normally reserved for Stow 'n Go storage to house a lithium-ion battery pack. And there's also the issue of customer acceptance. Though a fully-trimmed electric minivan would catch the fancy of most families, the cargo space and utility offered by the vans' boxy shape would attract fleet customers. Such was the case with Chrysler's first two electric vehicles, the 1993 TEVan and 1998 EPIC - both were built from basic cargo vans and sold primarily to electric utilities and other fleets. Though Quigley notes Chrysler will officially decide on which vehicle to produce first in "early 2009," we're betting the minivan - either in passenger or in cargo van form - will make the short list. Source: Automotive News

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