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US taxpayers' money was green but Chrysler's cars won't be

Detroit-based automaker Chrysler announced November 9 that its electric car program has been shelved as the brand focuses on revamping its plants to produce Fiat-designed cars.

Last February, when the automaker was begging Congress for bailout funds, Chrysler made green vehicles a key part of their restructuring plan, saying they planned to bring electric cars to market by 2010. But even though GM is now partially owned by the US government there are no levers in place to compel Chrysler to follow through on their environmentally-friendly talk.

And accordingly, Chrysler stated yesterday that, due to the inherent difficulties in incorporating Fiat's product development system in production plants, its ENVI program has been put on hold, with its electric car engineers switching to gasoline-engine car development.

Chrysler's ENVI program was dedicated to creating production, not concept, electric vehicles and related advanced-propulsion technologies. The group was dedicated to building a new hybrid vehicle from "the ground up," like the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and Ford Fusion, and was highly touted in the months leading up to the company's April 30 bankruptcy.

ENVI's first electric vehicle was supposed to be the Dodge Circuit sports car, which is far past the concept stage and was supposed to compete with the Tesla Roadster. But Chrysler announced their premiere EV will not be the stunning Dodge Cicuit but a commercial van from Fiat, due in late 2011 or 2012, based on the Doblo model.

The silver lining in Chrysler's change of tune is that the Fiat-based cars Chrysler will produce will be far greener than their previous lineup of gas guzzling SUVs, trucks and minivans.

Chrysler will not terminate the two-mode (or mild) hybrid version of the Dodge Ram pickup truck, on schedule for next year, or the plug-in hybrid Ram and plug-in hybrid minivan slated for 2011. But Chrysler stated that these hybrids will only account for just one-two percent of all their vehicles by 2014, a far cry from what they proposed when their hands were out.