Chrysler woos Millennials with electric concept car – USA TODAY
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will reveal a new, semi-autonomous electric vehicle Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas designed for young families that also provides a window into the automaker’s vision for a future filled with self-driving vehicles.
Called the Chrysler Portal, the vehicle was “created by Millennials for Millennials,” according to the automaker, and provides interesting insights into the automaker’s possible future direction.
The vehicle is only a concept — not a production vehicle — so it’s unclear if the company will ever produce and sell it.
But Fiat Chrysler is treating it seriously, disclosing the vehicle’s possible powertrain, specifications, design, technology and engineering — demonstrating a level thought and research that goes beyond many industry concepts.
Fiat Chrysler’s decision to showcase the vehicle at CES also provides an important window into its strategy for self-driving vehicles. Until now, Fiat Chrysler only publicly known involvement in self-driving cars has been its agreement to provide 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo, Google’s self-driving car spinoff.
The automaker, credited with the invention of the minivan in the early 1980s, also said the Chrysler Portal is aimed at making sure it remains an innovator when it comes to vehicles designed for families.
Fiat Chrysler “is a leader in family transportation and it was essential that we fully-explored the idea of what vehicle could look like for this emerging generation,” Tim Kuniskis, the automaker’s head of passenger car brands said in a statement.
The company declined to say if it considers the Chrysler Portal to be a minivan, SUV or crossover, choosing instead to say it’s “an interpretation of a next generation vehicle.”
To create the Chrysler Portal concept, Fiat Chrysler says it worked with Samsung Electronics as its provider of 360 degree cameras and other sensors and Panasonic Automotive as its supplier for infotainment, wireless connectivity and audio systems.
The vehicle, which seats six, has a number of high-tech sensors that allows it to be classified as a semi-autonomous vehicle under industry standards and is designed so it can be upgraded to fully autonomous driving, if desired.
The Chrysler Portal would get its electric power from by a lithium-ion battery pack, mounted underneath the floor that is rated at about 100 kilowatt-hours (kWh.) Fully charged, the battery pack gives the Portal an estimated driving range of more than 250 miles and is propelled by a single electric motor driving the front wheels.
That compares with a 238-mile range for the Chevrolet Bolt, and 289 miles for the Tesla Model X — two electric vehicles that are on sale now. The three-row Chrysler Portal would be larger than the Bolt but not quite as large as the Model X.
The concept vehicle also has unique, sliding doors that provides a barrier-free entry that’s nearly 5-feet wide when both doors are open. The barrier free entry is possible because pillar that normally separates the front seats from the second row is incorporated into the doors.
Inside, Fiat Chrysler’s concept presents a dizzying list of potential in-car communication technology that was largely designed and imagined by teams from the automaker and Panasonic.
They include a passenger to passenger intercom system, an interior camera for group photos, an emergency vehicle alert system, facial recognition for vehicle settings and vehicle to vehicle communication systems.
“When our teams began imagining the user experiences inside the Chrysler Portal, we set out to identify a long-time supplier partner who could help push the limits of customization and personalization,” Scott Thiele, FCA’s chief purchasing officer said in a statement. “Working with Panasonic Automotive on this concept vehicle is just one example of how FCA is engaging strategic suppliers early in the development phase to bring to life innovations that can become industry benchmarks.”
Fiat Chrysler said it’s designers wanted to re-imagine how an automotive interior should be laid out. A low, flat floor and smaller engine compartment helped designers craft a vehicle with 180-cubic-feet of space.
“Designers envisioned the interior of the Chrysler Portal concept as a “third space” for users that comfortably bridges the transition between the office and home and promotes sharing inside the vehicle,” the automaker said.