back to article Chrysler: the future's bright, the future's electric

Lou Rhodes, Chrysler's VP of Advanced Engineering, has said electric cars are central to the motor company's future and key to "a long-term viable business for Chrysler." Some observers are questioning whether or not Chrysler actually has a future as an independent car maker, but not Rhodes, who sees the company prospering as a …

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More of this, less of that?

Please stop being acting like some sort of quasi-Clarkson with your masturbatory fantasies about overpowered cars, which are just as easy to do stupid speeds in whether they are electric or petrol. I vote for more of the "Peapod" variety because more people will buy it and it will be more efficient, and hence it might make a significant difference.

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Why so much glass

Can someone explain why all of the electric car designs I've seen lately seem to have exteriors with way more glass than a normal vehicle? The Peapod has transparent doors, and the ZEO a transparent roof. If I recall correctly, that silly concept car with the "energy tree" was almost entirely transparent.

It appears to be a plot to ensure that electric drivers get blinded by the sun, smashed into the ground when their cute little electric toy rolls over, and are then thoroughly torn up by shattered glass. Is there an energy efficiency benefit too?

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Ru
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Re: I vote for more of the "Peapod" variety

Why on earth would you do that? It looks daft, to put it politely. It seems many designers have issues with making small cars that don't look like golf carts, and that isn't something to be encouraged.

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hj

only thing they have to do now

is hire a designer with a bit of taste..

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Dead Vulture

... the Future NEEDS a BAIL OUT tax payers.

Chrysler is such a crippled auto maker, mostly because of a long history of only making crap and cars only Phallic symbol people would buy, all this pretty picture stuff is nothing more than a PR Blast to get the Big Libs in Congress that love to give away our money, to Bail Out Chrysler.

Besides, the Electric Car is nothing but a bad idea. Where the hell do you think the electricity to recharge is going to come from??? Heaven and free?? Obummer has already said that if "electricity rates have to skyrocket to clean up our environment, then so be it ..." (his reference to NOT USING even Clean Coal energy generation.)

To produce electricity you must POLLUTE, even Nuc pollutes to a degree and where do you you put the spent radioactive end product?? I am not against Nuc, just realistic.

Now the last time I brought this up, the A-Hole Censors at The Reg, censored the truth. Gonna do it again?

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Here's a zany idea..

How about this for a ker-a-zee idea.

Save everyone billions in developments costs and JUST PUT AN ELECTRIC ENGINE IN AN OTHERWISE NORMAL CAR.

Redesign it a bit to adjust for the wheel motors and lack of giant engine etc, obviously, but that's engineering not design. Rest of the car - leave. Or at least put real designers onto it not the concept designers.

Then it might, you know, actually get made.

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Happy

How about both?

The peapod concept is obviously not for everyone, just like the Zeo wouldn't be the 1st choice for the long lost concept of a nuclear family. Hell, I think that pod is ugly, and I can feel my nuts shrivel in the thought of owning one. (if asking why, google: 'Jeff Dunham Blue Prius' and you will understand better.)

Aesthetics aside the key point of the story and why Chrystler has the right idea is power and range. 'Leccy tech always had the issue of range and performance, and I will be watching the Zeo closely with those specs. The overall range is a little short for real road trips, but I can live with 250 miles on a charge.

As for the glass stuff, who said they're using glass? A Plexiglas-like alternative material could be used and be safer. Also if they so choose, embed it with a liquid crystal layer to give you that instant on moon roof.

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re: Why so much glass

An excellent question. With all that glass, the greenhouse effect inside the vehicle will be terrific. Of course, air conditioning won't significantly drain those 60kWh batteries, will it?

One would have thought Chrysler would have learned from the company it absorbed some time ago. American Motors had one called the Pacer which had so much glass that it required air conditioning to be driven anywhere south of the Arctic Circle during the day.

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Re: I vote for more of the "Peapod" variety

Yes, why on earth would you do that? Who'd want to drive around in something looking like that?! Make a small electric car that looks something like, say, a Fiesta, then yeah sure, they will sell loads, but a PeaPod???!!!

If I were to buy an electric car, it would be to save money (oh and maybe a little bit of the planet), not to be laughed at wherever I drive!

I do think there should be something electric between the utterly small and ugly and the sleek sports cars. If they can do a car with a 0-60 time in under 6 seconds (or a lot better if you take the Teslar), then surely they can do a Focus or Mondeo sized practicle car with 9-10 second 0-60 time with a bigger range?

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Anonymous Coward

@ Martin Lyne

Bindun, innit. The real problem with that approach is that current-tech batteries are nowhere near as energy dense as a tank of hydrocarbon sloshing about (same goes for hydrogen, while I'm at it), so to achieve a semblance of the performance and range that consumers expect, you need to get jiggy with adding some lightness and simplifying. This demands better aerodynamic performance, but luckily you can do away with all those vents and holes you normally use to get air into and emissions out of the petrol engine you no longer have. You need less rolling resistance, which is best done by the use of narrower-section, taller tyres, which are lighter, so you don't need quite as much heavy hardware in the suspension, and you've already reduced the size and weight of the braking system, because you're using the motor-generator to brake and top off the batteries at the same time. Now, because you no longer have that big lump of hot metal sat up front, you need to completely rethink and rework the heating and aircon system (amongst the biggest components of any car). But then we've got to hide all those batteries somewhere...

If you just throw some batteries and a motor into an existing car, all you do is compromise both the car and the electric power system. This is why this approach has never worked, and specifically designing a car as a whole to maximise the possibilities of electric power is the only sensible thing to do.

@ Webster: as has been brought up in every single comments section I've seen in response to articles about electric cars, yes, generating that electricity is going to produce pollution, but at a greatly reduced number of outlets: cleaning up the emissions of a fossil-fuel power plant comes at a greatly reduced cost per car than does cleaning up each car's emissions individually.

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@Here's a zany idea..

I agree. Why does every electric have to be a different car? It would be simpler and easier to sell if it were an option instead of a new car altogether.

"Well we have the A4 in turbo 4-banger, VR 6, and leccy."

or leccy, turbo 4-banger, or vr6, etc, etc.

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say no to Pee Pods

Especially when they're "neighborhood" vehicles. that's code for "sh*tty golf cart with lights, turn signals, and licensing requirements". Just like the ones our security guy drives around. Overpriced, useless, unless you live in one of those rich-elitist "gated communities".

real people have jobs they need to drive to. They need to pick up groceries, not have them delivered. They travel more than to the corner coffee shop to sit around spewing pseudo-intellectual ignoramus political propaganda.

As I said after that lame "energy tree" car yesterday, and as someone reiterated earlier today-put an electric drivetrain in something practical, decent, and *pre-existing*. Don't waste money and time on silly packaging-sure the iPhone types and the enviro-wang wavers need to advertise their "greenness" to satisfy their smugness. but to be practical, cram the stuff into a Mini (already done, kudos!) a Prosche Boxster (should be a factory option) or, redesign the old Japanese cars like the CVCC, the Datsun 510, or even the 90's Geo Metro for that "retro" look.

But maybe there's a reason for the suppository-shape? Maybe Dunham was right...

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Stop

I remember

an idea in the 1970s (yes that long ago) of using a small high-temperature high-speed petrol driven turbine to charge batteries which would then use an electronic 'drive chain' to control individual wheel motors. The turbine would take some time to reach proper working temperature (when it would become highly efficient and low polution), but that wouldn't matter as the batteries would hold up until then. There would also be regenerative braking, which would also claw back some wasted power.

It all went quiet, and there were the usual conspiracy theories, but I think there simply wasn't the level of technology then. There is now!

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yawn... Yet another 'concept cars', but never a PRODUCT

Every dollar wasted by these USA car companies on 'concept car' garbage should be deducted *TWICE* from any upcoming bailout proposal: Once for the directly wasted time and money; and then a second time-- directly from CEO and Board compensation, for the utter stupidity and juvenile irrelevance of building this stuff.

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hmm

out of the electric cars I've seen the Zeo ranks #2 in looks.

Personally I like the way the Chevy volt looks

Now if the Zeo didn't have the huge wanna be 50s car of the future bubble roof and something more normal it would look damn good.

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@AC (More of this, less of that?)

In addition to being the road-going equivalent of nerd glasses (you know, the black plastic ones, taped together at the bridge), there is the fact that the Peapod is incapable of even getting out of its own way. I don't know how things are in the UK, but for use here in the US, I would regard the stated top speed of 25mph as being inadequate even for use on non-highway roads. Needless to say, being incapable of being driven on the highways means that the Peapod would never be more than a niche vehicle anyway.

The Zeo, OTOH, should be capable of being used as a primary vehicle, provided the 250 mile range is something that can be achieved in anything like real-world use. A word of advice here. If you really care about weaning people away from the internal combustion engine, forget about the aversion to powerplants which which actually provide power in significant quantities.

Even if you think foregoing speed is desirable for its own sake, you are not going to convince the rest of us. What _can_ be done is to convince people to drive a "greener" car, provided they don't have to surrender any semblance of power and sex-appeal to do so. This is what cars like the Zeo can do.

Even if the Zeo styling is too over the top for some and it has insufficient room for others, it sends a message to drivers that they can do their part to save the ecosystem while still having a desirable ride. This message is much more likely to work than insisting that everyone don a hairshirt. After all, the ecosphere only responds to what we do or what we fail to do and is indifferent to how "virtuous" we are in the process.

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E

@Martin Lyne and @AC

I agree with Martin in general. Some of the (non-muscle) concept cars look nifty but why would I want glass doors? A glass door vehicle is a death trap in even a minor collision, and let us not consider glass roofed vehicles. Perhaps these designs are a plot by the auto companies to make sure they will never have to produce the things and can stick with gas - regulators would dismiss these things out of hand as laughably unsafe.

AC responding to Martin: Most consumer cars are designed in wind tunnels now already - that's why all sedans in the mainstream market look like each other. The bodies are already aerodynamic, maximizing it for not having air intakes does not require making vehicles look like strange moon buggies. Surely the batteries can be spread around the chassis to be neutral wrt centre of mass. As for aircon: aircon is for assholes.

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Paris Hilton

Why do Chrysler

continue to build cars that are as ugly as the proverbial hatfull of assholes? Whatever their engineering qualities (good, bad, who knows?), their taste is clearly concentrated in their corporate fundament. How about making cars that actually look good?

Paris - as an example.

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@Rick Brasche, Martin Lyne et al

The idea of just installing a different drive system may sound obvious but it's rather more involved than you state. The petrol or diesel unit does a lot more than power the wheels; it provides assistance for air conditioning, steering, braking and (via the charging curcuit) keeps the vehicles various electronic systems for safety and comofort going. So the idea is not the no-brainer that you believe.

Additionally, your idea actually wastes the opportunity for engineers, designers and stylists to really turn the concept of private transport into something relevant and useful for people. With electric power a lot of kit in a vehicle becomes effectively redundant and can be thrown away -so packaging can be thought about from the ground up. Ironically the one reason the Peapod concept is not popular is , I believe, down to it not being anywhere near radical enough. The likening of it to being a golf cart isn't too far from the truth I think.

There has also been some comments about why so much glass seems to be used in these concepts(it's more likely to be a polycarbonate but we'll stick to the glass point for the moment). The use of glass adds weight in comparision to steel, alloy or composite; we should be having lighter vehicles, not porky ones. Create a good clear glasshouse with slim pillars and be done with it.

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Self Charging?

Wouldn't it be great if these leccy cars could self charge just by driving them. Imagnie adapted dynamo's on each wheel, solar panels on the hood, roof and sides, wind turbine generators behind the front grille, the range would be extended and would save on leccy bills. infact wherever there are moving parts in any of these vehicles is potential energy. If cars could do this everyone would have one! Ok so they might not look as pretty but I'm sure the world's top designers could do something to build these concepts into the design of the cars. Does anyone agree?

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Paris Hilton

@Webster

Broken record time again. True, electricity doesn't appear out of thin air. But consider where your tank of petrol comes from. Does that appear by magic in your car's tank? I suspect not. How about the exploration, drilling, transporting, refining, re-transporting, storage and distribution? And at what cost? And that's BEFORE you burn it. This argument always seems to be missing in the petrol vs electric car debate.

Paris - well, why not?

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Happy

RE: Chris Pasiuk

We have an unfortunate at work who bought a blue Prius "for his wife", yet seems to drive it every day whilst she goes shopping in "his" Discovery. Needless to say, we have made him very aware of Mr Dunham's work! ;)

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Paris Hilton

@ Zany Idea

Some guy did just that:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Build_your_own_Electric_Car/

Final stats: cost around $1000, top speed 45mph, 20 miles on one charge, equivalent mpg:130 (!!!). And this is a guy who just hacked an old junkyard car for kicks. Imagine a proper shop doing similar conversions, for a few grand a pop, you could make a fortune. How the fuck isn't this the best business proposition of the decade?

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