Chrysler is showing the world it knows how to do "alternative." Their Dodge ZEO, Jeep Renegade and Chrysler ecoVoyager concepts all run on electric power, but produce and store that power in different manners. This is a continuation of the auto-show trend of 2007, where manufacturers fell all over themselves attempting to "out green" each other. It also demonstrates that Chrysler thinks that electricity will power some line of cars in its future, but the corporation just isn't sure what technology will keep the battery packs in those cars charged up.

Of course, all this technology stays interesting for just so long, then everybody but the techies get bored. For all of the non-techies out there, Chrysler wrapped their electric vehicles in three different styles.

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ecoVoyager

The Chrysler ecoVoyager looks sports an ovoid profile with crisp detailing. The center ridge running up the short hood and along the long roofline is particularly appealing. The four-seat interior is luxurious, and the materials used inside are rich.

The ecoVoyager can run 40 miles on a full battery pack, but when the stored juice runs low, a hydrogen fuel cell produces electricity to re-supply the batteries. The electric motors produce the equivalent of 268 horsepower, so acceleration should be brisk.

Jeep Renegade

With looks that seem to be a cross between a Jeep Wrangler and a Mazda Miata, the Renegade Concept looks ready to blast across deserts and through rough mountain passes. Electric motors provide basic motivation for the little Jeep, but a three-cylinder 1.5-liter clean diesel provides additional power to extend cruising range to 400 miles before the diesel tank and batteries run dry. The combined efficiency of the electric motors and the diesel engine yield the equivalent of approximately 110 miles per gallon.

As every Jeep vehicle should, the Renegade has a capable 4 x 4 system with a low-range transfer case and locking differentials.

The Renegade doesn't have a typical convertible top. The concept is designed to have different style "lids" that could be purchased much like any other vehicle accessory. The interior is designed to be hosed out after a day playing at the beach or slogging through the mud.

Dodge ZEO

Remember, Dodge is the division of Chrysler that builds the Viper SRT-10 and burly Ram trucks. If you're sick and tired of green cars looking like a microwaved lima bean, their ZEO Concept is for you. "The Dodge ZEO concept is designed to break the paradigm of what an electric car should look like," said Bill Zheng, Dodge ZEO principal exterior designer. "An electric car can be as expressive as any gasoline-powered vehicle. The Dodge ZEO concept proves that point -- and then some."

Although it looks like a coupe, the ZEO is a four-door, four-passenger performance vehicle. The doors scissor open to reveal a wide entry/exit path to the interior.

Power comes from the same electric motor system used in the other two Chrysler Concept cars, but the ZEO is tuned to accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than six second -- as quickly as many V8-powered cars. Instead of relying on another form of range extender (hydrogen fuel cell or diesel-powered generator), the ZEO carries a battery pack that is four times larger than Chrysler's other concepts. Based on the manufacturer's estimates, the 64kWh Li-ion battery pack will deliver a cruising range of at least 250 miles.

This concept proves that performance will continue to be a part of the automotive world, even as the automotive world becomes greener.

See Our Full Coverage of the 2008 Detroit Auto Show


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