December 12, 2016 at 10:11 am by Bengt Halvorson | Photography by THE MANUFACTURER
Chrysler already boasts that its 2017 Pacifica hybrid plug-in, which begins reaching dealerships this month, is capable of going 33 miles on electric power alone under low-load driving conditions. And now it could be the first automaker, in this decade’s resurgence of electric vehicles, to offer an all-electric minivan. According to Bloomberg, citing those familiar with the project, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is planning to reveal such a van at January’s CES technology show in Las Vegas.
An FCA spokesman declined to comment. Chrysler was once known for wild concept cars, many of which were clearly not production bound, but in the FCA era, an auto-show concept is no longer a flight of fancy but generally signals production intent.
It wouldn’t be the first time Chrysler has produced an electric minivan, either. The automaker made a very limited-edition all-electric version of its minivan in the 1990s, called the TEVan, primarily for use in public-utility fleets. An electric Pacifica also could serve as a springboard toward a hydrogen fuel-cell van. Chrysler has teased the idea of a fuel-cell version before—in the futuristic ecoVoyager concept—although that was back in 2008, in Chrysler’s Cerberus era. It might also prove an interesting counterpoint to one other vehicle that’s now slated to arrive (potentially in vastly different production form) in several years: the Volkswagen Microbus-inspired BUDD-e Concept. The BUDD-e concept debuted last year at CES, which over the past several years has become the preferred show for automakers’ technology announcements and tech-centric concept cars.
FCA’s only current full-electric model is the Fiat 500e. In 2014, FCA’s chief executive disclosed that the company was losing $14,000 for every 500e it sold. The model was conceived primarily to meet California’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate—a mandate that will require automakers to sell an increasing number of all-electric, plug-in-hybrid, and perhaps hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The automaker also is working on a Maserati EV, slated to arrive as early as 2019.