With finances still tight, Chrysler is again forgoing holding a press conference here in Detroit today. However, that doesn't mean there is no news at all. The diminutive Fiat 500 figures prominently in the center of the stand in two different forms. One is the 500 Abarth, currently available in Europe. Immediately next to the hot hatch is a new electric prototype which has been rumored for several weeks.
According to Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa, the 500 BEV is purely a packaging exercise at this time. There are no plans at all for a production version or even a fleet test. Contrary to some earlier rumors, the prototype does not use Tesla/Mini E style battery pack comprised of thousands of laptop lithium ion cells.
The 500 uses the same modular electric drive system that Chrysler has been developing for the last three years, including a battery pack comprised of large format automotive grade cells. No other details are available at this time, but Cappa did say that the electric drive team has actually grown since last year, despite the elimination of ENVI. In fact, Chrysler is still hiring engineers for its electric team. The focus at this time remains commercial applications like compact vans, and Cappa told ABG that the timing mentioned at the November 4 business planning meeting still holds true. That means the first product should appear in the 2012 time frame.