So it looks like Chrysler has chosen to join the ranks of GM in an attempt to bring an electric alternative to the market.
Last week, Chrysler announced that it will deliver an electric vehicle in North America in 2010. The company also revealed three electric prototypes:
a Dodge sports car
a Chrysler minivan
Here are a few photos:
Now while we haven't heard much in the past about new electric vehicles coming out of Chrysler, Vice Chairman, Tom LaSorda told reporters that the company is much further ahead on these vehicles than many had thought. If that's the case, then they've done one hell of a job keeping it a secret.
Chrysler also unveiled a smaller "neighborhood electric vehicle" that can go up to 30 miles on a charge. Though why these guys keep trying to push "neighborhood electric vehicles" is beyond me. These things only have a top speed of 25 mph. And by the way, Chrysler isn't the only one delivering these low-speed losers.
I get that they're trying to further develop the technology. I understand that a few environmentally-conscious folks might be interested. And certainly these vehicles have a place in gated communities, industrial complexes, and low-speed residential zones. But if they're trying to sell electric vehicles to more than just a niche market, they're going to have to stop with this low-speed nonsense. Or at least stop promoting it to the masses as a part of their electric agenda.
Listen: The automakers have a real opportunity here to help curb our foreign oil consumption - and make a hell of a lot of money in the process. Whether it's GM's Volt, Chrysler's electric jeep or Mitsubishi's iMiEV - any vehicle that can:
Deliver acceptable top speeds (nothing below 65 mph),
Deliver an acceptable "all-electric" range (nothing less than 30 miles), and
Come in at a reasonable price (any premium must be recouped via gas or diesel savings within 5 to 6 years)
Has a real chance of being the vehicle that revives today's struggling auto industry.
And for investors - well, you might be interested to know that Chrysler is now working with A123 Systems. This is the high-performance battery manufacturer that's also co-developing lithium-ion battery cells with GM for the Volt. A123 Systems is also planning to go public this year. We'll certainly keep you updated on that.
While we're definitely excited to see the shape of electric vehicles to come, as investors, we can't concentrate solely on personal transportation. Especially when there's just as much (if not more) opportunity in the commercial sector.
After all, those big commercial trucks log more miles, and require more fuel than even the biggest gas-guzzling SUVs found in so many driveways today.
As a result, with oil prices so volatile these days, many commercial truck operators are now scrambling to find new or replacement vehicles that aren't completely reliant upon gasoline and diesel. And that's opening the flood gates for dozens of new outfits that can supply electric and hybrid-electric commercial trucks.
One of the latest entries into the commercial electric truck arena is a company called Electrorides. I discovered this company's all-electric truck, the ZeroTruck, earlier this year at a conference in Vegas.
The ZeroTruck is a Class 4 electric delivery truck. It's actually an Isuzu N Series chassis that's been converted to run on a high-performance lithium polymer battery pack. Since the Isuzu chassis makes up nearly 80 percent of the market, this is the most logical way to go.
The vehicle does have a premium of about $100,000 attached to it. But at current diesel prices, the premium should be recouped within about 5 years. Not too shabby when you consider the typical 10-year lifespan of these kinds of trucks.
And of course, the fuel savings can add up fast.
A typical monthly payment on an Isuzu truck of this nature is about $850 to $900. The typical monthly diesel bill? Between $1,200 to $1,800!
Now Electrorides is not a publicly-traded company. But we'll keep an eye on the company's growth, because there are some potential speculative plays involved - like UQM Technologies (AMEX:UQM), which currently provides the electric motor for the ZeroTruck.
We'll also keep an eye on Electrorides as this is the kind of company that could easily be scooped up or taken public if these ZeroTrucks gain the kind of acceptance we think they will.
Another company providing commercial solutions in the electric and hybrid world is Azure Dynamics (TSX:AZD).
Azure currently boasts a balance-hybrid electric drive system for Ford's E450 Cutaway and Strip Chassis trucks. This vehicle has been able to improve fuel economy by as much as 40 percent, and reduce maintenance costs by up to 30 percent. Some of their customers include: AT&T, FedEX, and Purolator.
The company has also developed a series hybrid electric CitiBus. This vehicle uses a bus body manufactured by StarTrans for shuttle bus customers. Azure has also partnered with Siemens on this project, and has provided shuttle buses in Bronx, NY, in Brooklyn, and for the city of Soledad, just outside San Francisco.
We'll also keep you posted on this one as more develops.
To a new way of life, and a new generation of wealth...