Detroit 2009: Chryslers ENVIous trio gets revised

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Late last summer, on the heels of the formal unveiling of the Chevrolet Volt, Chrysler showed off three electric vehicles developed by its ENVI (short for ENVIronmental) department: a Chrysler Town & Country, a Jeep Wrangler, and a Lotus-based Dodge sports car. In the months since, the company has had a chance to make a few revisions to its electric trio, which is now joined by the new Patriot EV and the slick 200C EV concept car at the ’09 North American International Auto Show.

Dodge Circuit The most exciting of the déjà vu cars also gets the most changes. A face-lift has given the Dodge a crosshair grille (the prior absence of which supports our feelings that the first go-round of this trio was hastily thrown together), while the rear end now features a cleaner look without the previous horizontal lines. The only all-electric vehicle in the ENVI family also gets a formal name: Circuit. Hopefully we won’t look back on this show car as the Short Circuit …

Our executive editor Joe DeMatio drove this prototype last year, when it was painted yellow and black. Read his impressions HERE.

Jeep Wrangler Fresh “green pearl” paint graces the Wrangler EV this time around. We’re a bit disappointed that it’s still being presented as a two-wheel-drive vehicle, but officials claim that four-wheel drive (an absolute must in a Wrangler) with in-wheel electric motors is being developed. If this kind of vehicle reaches the public someday, the off-roading mantra “tread lightly” would be more appropriate than ever.

Chrysler Town & Country Completing the well-rounded family of EVs, the Town & Country also wears an attractive new coat of paint (“liquid graphite pearl”) and fresh graphics. Chrysler promises that such a T&C, like the Wrangler and the Patriot EVs, could go up to 40 miles on electric power only and about 400 miles between fillups of the fuel tank. Not too shabby.

Chrysler’s show display is light on frills and big on products this time around, as I’ve already noted. As a Mopar guy who's been extremely disappointed with many of the Pentastar's recent products, I sincerely hope that the company remains strong enough to make good on its promises about these vehicles--that at least one will be in production sometime in 2010 (I’m guessing the popular, versatile Town & Country, although it'll likely be offered initially to fleet customers) and at least three more by 2013 (please please PLEASE don’t ditch the Circuit!). Based on what I’ve seen so far at the Detroit show, I think that Uncle Sam has invested his billions wisely.

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