Monday, June 25, 2007

Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News

The 2008 Dakota pickup runs on E85. Chrysler said many of its efforts will create cleaner, more efficient vehicles in the near future.

Chrysler unveils green technologies as part of $3B initiative

Scott Burgess / The Detroit News

CHELSEA -- Chrysler Group unveiled an array of technologies to improve the fuel economy of its Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands as part of its $3 billion investment in engines, transmission and powertrain components.

Frank Klegon, vice president of product development, announced the initiatives Thursday at Chrysler's Proving Grounds during a media preview of its 2008 model lineup. Most of the information about the vehicles is embargoed.

Chrysler's initiative comes as lawmakers in Washington wrangle over how high to raise the fuel economy standards -- known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy -- of the nation's cars and trucks.

"These are all different things we are pursuing," Klegon said. "They are decisions that are consumer driven, not regulatory driven."

Chrysler only touched on some of its powertrain highlights and hinted at other possible plans, saying many of its efforts would create cleaner, more efficient vehicles in the near future.

As an example, Klegon pointed to the 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, a gas-electric hybrid developed with General Motors Corp and the BMW Group, which was parked nearby. Chrysler engineers have added a few tricks to the 5.7-liter Hemi, available as an engine option, to include the use of electric motors while cruising to boost highway mileage, something currently unavailable on SUVs.

Chrysler intends to focus its gas-electric hybrid system on SUVs, though it is not ruling out cars in the future. Mercedes-Benz could introduce a hybrid car developed from the same technology as early as next year.

Klegon confirmed Chrysler would develop a mild hybrid for some vehicles. The system shuts off the engine whenever the vehicle stops, but still keeps things like the air conditioning running and uses regenerative brakes to help recharge the car's battery.

Its other plans include:

  • Introducing the 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee BLUETEC diesel, which will meet emission standards in all 50 states.
  • Building more vehicles with the 3-liter V-6 diesel engine (currently in the 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee), as well as exploring the introduction of a four-cylinder diesel in the U.S.
  • Including a multi-displacement system on Chrysler's new V-6 engine family so three valves can shut off while cruising, when less power is needed.
  • Improving the powerful 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 to make it more fuel efficient.

    "We have to fight this battle on many fronts," Klegon said. "We're not going to just sit around."

    The ambitious plans could help Chrysler's fleet, though it's uncertain which plans will come to fruition, said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with AutoPacific.

    However, pending changes to CAFE standards, which regulate fuel efficiency, could ultimately decide the fate of some programs.

    "The magic question right now is what is CAFE going to be," she said.

    Brinley said some ideas could strike a chord with consumers who want cars with better gas mileage.

    For example, Klegon said Chrysler was making its 2.4-liter four-cylinder World Engine capable of direct injection. That could create a more powerful and more efficient engine. However, Chrysler would not confirm whether it would use it in the marketplace.

    Many consumers prefer smaller four-cylinder engines. About 73 percent of the 2007 Chrysler Sebring sedans sold were four-cylinder models. Chrysler builds about 800,000 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engines a year.

    Chrysler is also partnering with Detroit-based NextEnergy to find more ways to develop biofuels, such as B20, a diesel fuel that is 20 percent biofuel.

    The company is also working with Michigan State University and the Environmental Protection Agency to reuse a brownfield site in Detroit to grow crops for biodiesel.

    Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News

    "They are decisions that are consumer driven, not regulatory driven," says Chrysler's Frank Klegon, vice president of product development. See full image

    Green initiatives

  • Expand gas-electric hybrid program.
  • Introduce 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee BLUETEC
  • New 4.7-liter, V-8 will deliver 5 percent fuel economy improvement
  • Dual-clutch transmission will improve fuel economy by 6 percent
  • Explore development of 4-cylinder diesel for North American market

    Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News

    The J.T., a concept Jeep See full image

    David Kimble

    Two-Mode Hybrid Transmission See full image

    See full image

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