Chrysler's Legion Of Upcoming EVs Under The "ENVI" Banner Circa 2009
It appears as though Chrysler has designs on re-starting their plug-in ambitions, as their corporate head-hunting site has put out the request to hire new engineers, according to their website ChryslerCareers.com as reported by the Automotive News.
This would mark the company's second serious effort to get into the plug-in business; Fiat 500e notwithstanding.
Backstory on Chrysler's Original Plug-In Dreams - ENVI
Not so long ago, well actually an eternity ago in EV-years - almost 5 years, Chrysler was the envy (pun intended) of the plug-in vehicle community as their "ENVI" lineup of professionals seemingly churned out endless working plug-in prototypes, at least 4 of which wereproduction intended.
At the time I was writing at GM-Volt.com, and first speculated on the program's death ahead of Fiat's first ever "5 year plan" for the Pentastar brand. It was also the first time in my career I found myself in the middle of a little media circus of people saying:
- the program was actually still alive and we at GM-Volt.com were off base
- or taking the opportunity to kick someone (Chrysler and EVs in general) who were down
It was kind of a lose-lose situation ultimately from our prospective of being EV-advocates, but also not wanting to look foolishly in error either.
By mid 2009, Chrysler had plans for the Circuit EV (a 2 seat, all-electric sports car), a 40 mile extended range Jeep Patriot and a 40 mile extended range Town & Country van. Even a Jeep Wrangler and a concept sedan (200C) started to enter corporate plans.
Chrysler promised one of the models by 2010, with three more to follow by the end of 2012,
and we have enjoyed all 4 of them thoroughly since they came to market so many years ago.
What Could Have Been: Dodge's Circuit EV With 200 Miles Of Range Might Have Offered Some High End Competition For Tesla
Unfortunately, the last anyone heard from the "ENVI" team was on their corporate blog (don't click it - it's long gone) on May 7th, 2009 - ironically the same day the company when bankrupt.
Once Fiat took over Chrysler and they were none to keen to continue the project, and no EVs from the project were heard from again. On the prospect of electric vehicles, new Lord of Chrysler Sergio Marchionne said:
“I think electric vehicles are going to struggle,” and that perhaps they would only account for “1 to 2 percent” of Chrysler’s business by the middle of the next decade."
And when you control the company, self-fulfilling prophecies like this are the easiest to fill. Not too much later a Chrysler spokesperson officially ended Chrysler's dreams of being the world's plug-in leader, saying:
“ENVI is (being) absorbed into the normal vehicle development program”
We wrapped up the story, and never looked back.
As Part Of A Separate $123 Million Dollar DoE Program 132 Plug-Ins (109 PHEV Ram Trucks & 23 Vans) Where Ultimatly Delivered By The ENVI Team - Some Of Those Trucks (3) Caught Fire And Were Recalled Last Year
The Chrysler jobs site says they are now looking to develop both stop-start systems and electric vehicles, as well as seeking out engineers to work with suppliers on EV technology.
While Chrysler still doesn't have any short-term projects on the horizon, powertrain spokesman Eric Mayne said to Automotive News that the job postings are consistent with future product plans.
"We've said all along that we'll need electrification to comply with the regulations going forward, and any hiring that we do on that front is consistent with that plan. The range of electrification technologies we've said that we'll adopt starts with start-stop and goes through EVs."
The outlet concluded the postings "indicate Chrysler is actively planning plug-in hybrids, mild hybrids and electric vehicles," and from looking at them ourselves, we would tend to agree.
Now, about that 40 mile extended range van Chrysler? ...we have been waiting a really long time!