Chrysler showing off plug-in hybrids to dealers

/ Source: The Associated Press

Chrysler LLC has been demonstrating plug-in hybrid prototypes to some dealers that are further developed than those previously shown by the automaker, the company's president said.

In comments Tuesday at the Motor Press Guild in Los Angeles, Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Jim Press said the vehicles are being developed by Chrysler's Envi unit, which the automaker created last year to create electric vehicles and other advanced propulsion technologies.

Chrysler spokesman Rick Deneau confirmed the comments and said the prototypes are further along than the concepts the company unveiled in January.

"We are excited about the Envi organization, and we continue to work toward electric vehicles," Deneau said in an interview Wednesday.

Press said the vehicles can reach 60 mph (100 kph) in less than four seconds and have a range of at least 300 miles (480 kilometers), The Los Angeles Times reported. He said the technology would be useful in off-road vehicles and might be used in the Jeep brand, the Times reported.

Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler, along with General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., have been working frantically to develop new hybrid electric powertrains as consumers shun the automakers' traditionally popular large vehicles.

In January, Chrysler showed three concept cars at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit featuring pure electric and hybrid electric powertrains. The company has not provided a timeframe for development of the Chrysler ecoVoyager, the Dodge Zeo and the Jeep Renegade, but spokesman Nick Capa said Wednesday the company would have Envi products on the road within three to five years.

Chrysler also is working to develop hybrid and diesel versions of its top-selling Dodge Ram truck. It has also invested more than $3 billion in investing in new powertrains, including a fuel-saving engine called the Phoenix that it expects to arrive in the 2010 model year.