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Electrifying News From Chrysler

The 200C EV concept

Not all the news coming out of Chrysler these days is bad. We can only hope (for their sake) that the good news isn’t too little too late. This year’s Detroit auto show provided the backdrop for the unveiling of the ailing company’s plug-in, range-extended hybrid 200C EV. It was certainly welcome relief from the bevy of other electrics in the Chrysler corral, which were nothing more to the eye than old vehicles with “green” decals.

Chrysler's 200C EV concept car

The 200C EV, on the other hand, was Chrysler’s best-kept secret at the show. It’s a totally new vehicle, based on the company’s rear-drive platform—a.k.a. Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger, which is starting to get a little long in tooth by car standards. The body’s a bit shorter than a 300C, which is probably a good thing, but more importantly, unlike many other Chrysler sedans, the 200C EV doesn’t immediately bring to mind “rental car” when you lay eyes on it. Besides being sharp-looking, the car should cut a better aerodynamic path than the boxy 300, certainly most important when you’re talking fuel economy.

Can you really call it “fuel economy” when talking about electric powertrains? Why not? Electricity is fuel, yeah? But, this is a hybrid, which means there’s also a gasoline engine lurking about under the hood.

Seeing that the car’s a concept, which may or may not ever see production, Chrysler spokespeople chose to dwell on the style rather than the substance of the 200C EV, other than to say the car, as envisioned, could run up to 40 miles on battery-only power, probably good enough for most commutes. This would produce zero tailpipe emissions and use zero gas. A small gas engine with an integrated electric generator could produce enough electricity to extend the car’s driving range to 400 miles.

Seeing that Chrysler spent so much time explaining the car’s design, I thought I’d let you hear (or read) right from the horse’s mouth just what some of those design cues really mean. My own comments follow:

“The front fascia is a modern interpretation of the winged Chrysler badge, and its distinct grille continues to shape and evolve Chrysler’s brand identity.”

I had to go back to the photo on that one. I’ll give them the fact that the front end has a “winged shape” to it, but I’m missing its relationship to the Chrysler badge, which is right there at the top of the grille.

“It was important to design a car that not only appealed to the Chrysler enthusiast, but also could sway the interest of a wide variety of potential customers,” said Nick Malachowski, Chrysler 200C EV lead exterior designer.

Hopefully, the majority of those customers won’t have names like Alamo, Hertz, and Enterprise.

“The headlamps and taillamps are treated as dramatic sculptural elements on the vehicle and reinforce the organic form and function carried throughout the design theme.”

I’m not sure what’s so “organic” about the 200C EV’s shape, but I do like the way the taillamps are integrated into the rear styling much better than I like the headlamps. It seems to me these days that stylists are going overboard with headlight style. I’ve heard of some cars with terrific-looking lamps which are crap at night.

Here’s one of my favorite PR-type statements: “The Chrysler 200C EV concept vehicle projects a confident stance and proportion with its optimized wheel-to-body relationship.”

I’ve owned a lot of cars in my day, but I don’t remember if any of them exuded a confident stance—although there were a couple of cars which I swore sneered at me daily as the years went on.

Moving on to the interior: “All vehicle functions, settings and uconnect features are managed via a panoramic multimedia touch screen, a passenger-dedicated ‘techno-leaf’ and a stowable tablet PC.”

While at the Detroit show, I didn’t get a chance to peak at the interior of the 200C EV, but re-reading that last statement I don’t have a clue as to what most of it means: Techno-leaf? Uconnect? I know panoramic is something pretty wide, but it sounds like trouble to me, as further up in the press release they tell us that “The interior is free of switches and levers.” And if everything is controlled via a “panoramic multimedia touch screen,” you’d better have a co-pilot along to manage things as you drive.

Whether or not the 200C EV ever sees the light of day just might depend on how generous we are with our tax dollars in keeping Chrysler alive. We’ll see.

Read more of Jim Corbran’s auto analysis on AV Daily.

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