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The Dodge PowerBox

dodge powerbox concept carThe Dodge PowerBox hybrid concept, unveiled in January 2001, was a forerunner of the Durango and Ram hybrids. Thanks to a supercharged V6 engine running on compressed natural gas and an electric motor, the PowerBox has 60% better gas mileage than comparable SUVs with the power of a V8. Senor designer Mark Allen, who also worked on the 1999 Power Wagon concept, said he wanted to evolve the muscular Dodge truck look. He said the large, separate drop fenders are based on the 1946 Power Wagon.

Dodge execs said that drivers would never know the vehicle had a hybrid powertrain when they hit the gas - but, with 25 mpg [projected], the PowerBox will show its mettle at the pumps. Amazingly, this 25 mpg truck can also move from 0 to 60 in seven seconds - over a second better than a five-speed Dodge Neon, and faster even than the Chrysler 300M.

The gasoline engine is a supercharged, 250 hp natural gas version of the 2.7 V6, with an automatic rear wheel drive transmission. A 70 hp Siemens electric motor powers the front wheels when needed, aiding acceleration and recapturing energy during braking.

Weight is saved via a lightweight, recyclable thermoplastic body. Inside, an instrument panel spans the width of the vehicle. To counteract the high seating position, the truck drops down three inches when the transmission is put in Park.

Swing-slide rear doors provide easy access to the seats and storage area. A tailgate within a liftgate also helps.

The interior is 24 percent larger than the Durango and seats eight people, while the back seats fold down flush with the floor; but, the vehicle is only one inch longer than the Durango. We suspect this is the shape of things to come - like the next generation Durango.

In person, the Powerbox does not look too bad, and is easily more attractive than most current GM concepts.

venomConcept cars are often made so a car’s feel can be evaluated, problems can be foreseen, and reactions of the public can be judged. Some concepts test specific ideas, colors, controls, or materials — either subtle or out of proportion, to hide what’s being tested. Some are created to help designers think “out of the box.” The Challenger, Prowler, PT Cruiser, and Viper were all tested as production-based concepts dressed up to hide the production intent.

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