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Chrysler drops A123, might move to Electrovaya

by David Zatz on

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Chrysler has reportedly switched from using A123 to Electrovaya as its preferred battery supplier for electric cars and hybrids; while ENVI prototypes and the Fiat 500 EV used A123 batteries, the new Ram plug-in hybrid (PHEV) will use Electrovaya batteries.

Chrysler’s electric car initiatives, once under the domains of GEM and ENVI, have been integrated into the normal engineering structure. While numerous pundits wrote that this essentially meant that Chrysler was abandoning electric vehicle research and development, Patrick McNamara pointed out that Lou Rhodes, former ENVI chief, is now vehicle line executive for Hybrid/Electric Vehicles.

Ontario-based Electrovaya lists two former Chrysler executives (including Tom LaSorda) on its roster, and has had serious investment from the Canadian government. The production of 140 pilot Ram PHEVs, reportedly scheduled for 2011, suggests that Chrysler is serious about the technology.

Patrick McNamara also pointed out that Fiat has a hybrid version of a small dual-clutch transaxle for front-wheel-drive cars, which is slated to be used first with the two-cylinder Twinair.

Electric cars are seen by many as filling a niche for city and densely populated suburban commuting; while their range can be limited (roughly 40-50 miles on battery, and over 200 miles with range extending engines), most people rarely drive longer than their range on batteries alone. The average commuting distance in the United States is around 16 miles, at an average of around 25-30 mph. Hundreds of thousands of American commuters sit in traffic jams every day, not to mention taxi drivers in cities across the world; they are all potential buyers for electric cars, which, through regenerative braking and engine cutoff, would achieve far greater energy efficiency than traditional gasoline powered cars.

Alternatives such as hydrogen, gas-electric hybrids, and standard gasoline engines with start/stop systems and other efficiency measures are largely competing for the same audience, while biodiesel engines hold more promise for those who drive more on highways or rural routes.

Chrysler confirmed that it was leaving A123, crediting the company with being a good partner, but noting that it lost $34.2 million in the second quarter; the Fiat 500 EV may use Electrovaya batteries instead (Chrysler did not confirm that it would move to Electrovaya for anything bu tthe Ram batteries). A123 is based on Watertown, Massachusetts, but had a battery plant in Livonia, Michigan. The Fiat 500 (for North and South America) is to be built in Toluca, Mexico.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304

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