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About That Chrysler Pacifica All-Electric Rumor for CES

About That Chrysler Pacifica All-Electric Rumor for CES

(AP)

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Sunday, 11 December 2016 10:30 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Let’s unpack a rumor. It comes from Tommaso Ebhardt at Bloomberg. Supposedly he is unusually well-connected with a certain person. That does not mean that this particular story is accurate. I don’t know him and have never spoken to him. 

What we know is that FCA has said it will introduce a new vehicle at CES. The press conference is on the schedule for January 3. FCA has not said what this new vehicle is. However, FCA has said something cryptic about it being “a natural” for CES or something like that. That seems to imply something tech-intensive.  

Furthermore, it is also true that FCA will as always have a booth at Detroit right after CES. The schedule for that event has not yet been released, but will be made available every day. 

FCA just recently had three major product introductions in the last month:

  • Chrysler Pacifica hybrid (arriving in dealerships in the next few days or weeks).
  • Jeep Compass (on sale in South America already, and arrives here by February).
  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio (arrives here possibly Summer 2017). 

So with all of this news, it may only be natural that they don’t have anything for which to call a special press conference in Detroit.

As for the FCA reveal, supposedly intelligent speculation before yesterday had it that it would be the Google version of the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid. It would be a test fleet of perhaps 100 or so cars that would be capable of autonomous fleet testing. It would certainly make for a good demo. It makes sense from a timeline perspective given what FCA and Google said last May.

It is also true that the Fiat 500e is getting a bit long in the tooth. It is no longer competitive, and sells (leases) mostly based on price. The price used to be as low as $139 per month and no net money down, but now that’s falling well below $100 per month, seeing as other EVs have come to market with far better range and other characteristics -- and THEY are now leasing sometimes for $139 or below, with no net money down. Yeah, basically these cars are below the dirt-cheap threshold in California. 

So it almost certain that FCA has not only one pure EV (BEV) in the pipeline for the next 1-4 years, but probably two. The question is only which one or two they will be, in what kind of body etc. Will the Pacifica be one, this close after the introduction of the plug-in hybrid version? I have no idea, but I have seen crazier ideas. I would not bet against it, but I also cannot confirm it. 

If it is the Pacifica all-electric, it has 16 kWh in the current hybrid version. There is no way they would go to market with such a vehicle without at a rock-bottom minimum of 60-70 kWh capacity. Heck, the Chevy Bolt is at 60 kWh and the base Tesla Model S is at 60 kWh. The base Model X is at 75 kWh. A Pacifica weighs more than the Model S, but less than the Model X. The aerodynamics are not as good as any of the Teslas. So in reality, it should not be less than 75 kWh and preferably more. 

But where to fit a 75 kWh battery in the Pacifica without reducing its utility? I don’t know. You could reclaim the gasoline tank, but that might at best double it from 16 kWh to 32 kWh or something like that. Putting it at the very rear of the car has crash test implications. I can’t see how it escapes having to lift the floor, which is not what you want in any vehicle, especially one that advertises its utility such as the market’s largest minivan. 

It goes back to how hard it is to convert an existing vehicle as opposed to starting with a clean sheet of paper. It’s a huge dilemma. 

Assuming that the Bloomberg story is true -- as surprising as it may be, perhaps -- it may mean one thing, however: FCA would be able to sell a pure EV with record-large interior space, for a far lower price than a Tesla, Model X or otherwise. You would simply get a huge car -- although not as spacious as the “regular” Chrysler Pacifica, for many tens of thousands less than a Tesla. 

And that would be interesting in itself. 

We’ll find out one way or the other, on January 3.

Lauren Fix, The Car Coach® is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. Post your comments on Twitter: @LaurenFix or on her Facebook Page.

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LaurenFix
FCA has said something cryptic about it being “a natural” for CES or something like that. That seems to imply something tech-intensive.
fca, new car, auto, electric, ces
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2016-30-11
Sunday, 11 December 2016 10:30 AM
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