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Dodge Circuit EV: Light at the end of the tunnel

Chrysler faces extraordinary financial challenges. When it emerges from the darkness, the Circuit EV could become a handy weapon in the maker’s future arsenal.

dodge circuit rear view
photo courtesy of Chrysler Group
by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: 100% Electric Performance Coupe
  • Class: 2-Seat sports car
  • Manufacturer: Chrysler Group LLC
  • Propulsion system: 200 kW (268 hp) electric-drive motor
  • Top Speed: Greater than 120 mph (193 km/h)
  • Zero-to-60: 4.7 seconds
  • Vehicle range: 150-200 miles (241-322 km)
  • Fuel(s): Electricity
  • Fuel efficiency: Greater than 100 MPGe
  • Battery pack: 35 kW/h lithium-ion
  • Time to full battery recharge: Between 2-12 hours, source-dependent
  • Tailpipe emissions: No
  • Price: $85,000 (est base)
  • Availability: 2010-2011

The Manufacturer says

"You don't have to slow down to keep the planet squeaky clean. And you'll never have to stop for another gas station. Dodge Circuit EV packages zero tailpipe emissions in the unlikely form of a bold, two-passenger rear-wheel-drive sports car with responsive, agile performance…"

Overview

Calling it a 2-passenger performance coupe, the sporty rear-wheel drive Dodge Circuit EV is based on the Lotus Europa S and one of five ‘production-intent’ Chrysler vehicles in its ENVI platform, (read a comparison of the ENVI to GM's Voltec here) introduced at the Detroit Auto Show back in January of 2009.

Of course that was before the bail-out, before bankruptcy, before, before, before the automaker's spectacularly pathetic cave-in.

Nonetheless, the Circuit EV was included in the viability plan submitted to the US government. Although Chrysler has decided not to sell off the Dodge Viper, there's no ostensible reason why the Circuit EV couldn't have a place in a reorganized Chrysler/Dodge.

What we like

The Design. Lotus gets most of the credit, although comparing the Europa S and the Circuit in side-by-side photos, they don’t look like twins that survived birth, they look like one survivor one surgical extraction. dodge electric vehicle The Cockpit. Streamlined and gorgeous. No bones here.

What we don’t

The battery pack. The Circuit's lithium-ion battery pack weighs 600 lbs (out of the vehicle's 2,650 lbs), costs in excess of $25,000, and at 35-kilowatt-hours, it does a number on the vehicle's range.

The price. Assuming the EV reaches production, and further assuming, for kicks, that the $85,000 price tag remains, this feels a bit too high for a high performance sports car without a forward-looking marquee name (yes, thinking again of Tesla here), even if the market were to do a complete 180.

Conclusions

In April, theCarConnection.com tapped the Circuit as one of the six vehicles that could save Detroit. Optimistic? A bit.

Facing extraordinary financial times and stuck with a fleet of existing vehicles that Consumer Reports found desperately wanting, you have to wonder what Chrysler really hopes to achieve with the Circuit EV. Even if they have price-undercut their competition—the Tesla Roadster—who’s buying?

Maybe that’s too shortsighted. The company has a brand-new board of directors, and should be looking a whole lot more lean over the coming twelve months. Glancing down the road, when Chrysler emerges from the darkness, the Circuit EV could become a handy weapon in the maker’s future arsenal.

Dive Deeper

Car and Driver's June 2009 test-drive

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