Chrysler, the oft-forgotten corporate cousin of Jeep and a key part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group, could make a significant pivot into the world of electric vehicles at the start of the next decade, with a battery-powered people mover.
According to a report by industry website Automotive News, Chrysler will take its Portal concept, first shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2017, and transform it into a showroom-ready all-electric minivan.
If true, expect the styling of the six-seater, three-row Portal to be significantly toned down for the production line. Tech specs are obviously open to speculation, but the Portal concept touted the ability to drive about 400km. Power comes from a 100kWh lithium-ion battery and is sent to its front wheels.
Autonomous driving capability may also be a focus for a production Portal, given the concept boasted an array of sensors that allowed it to pilot itself – to the extent that the driver could safely conduct tasks other than driving.
Provided the report is accurate, the Portal could be FCA’s most concerted move to break into the pure EV space. Rival Chevrolet is already there with its Bolt small hatch, and premium brands like Audi and Mercedes-Benz are on the cusp of bringing their own dedicated electric vehicles to market. Besides the Fiat 500e city car, FCA has largely steered clear of battery-powered cars thus far.
Will it come our way though? Chrysler’s only offering in Australia is the 300 large sedan – an aging four-door that comes with V6 or V8 power, the latter in the form of the enthusiast-pitched 300 SRT. However, that vehicle doesn’t quite fit in with the company’s plans to transition into a people-mover brand – let alone one with a new EV focus and zero emissions.
A replacement for the aging 300 hasn’t been confirmed, though a FCA Australia spokesperson said the company planned to continue selling the 300 for the foreseeable future. Overseas reports suggest it will be retired in 2020, by which point the current generation will have been in production for almost nine years.
In the USA, Chrysler offers the Pacifica (which essentially replaced the Voyager), but that model is not on the cards for an Australian release. The Pacifica is offered as a plug-in hybrid with up to 53km of battery-only range, though the arrival of a Portal-based partner to the Pacifica would substantially boost the eco-credentials of the company.
Unfortunately there’s no clarity on whether it’s something that Chrysler’s local office has its eye on. Asked about the potential for an Aussie debut of a battery-powered Chrysler, a spokesperson declined to comment about future product plans.
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