To celebrate Earth Day, Chrysler invited a select group of media to the Green Ride N Drive, (held during the SAE Show in Detroit today), to get behind the wheel of the Dodge Circuit EV. So in an act of automotive environmental irony that has to this day only been perpetrated on the planet by Jeremy Clarkson, we hopped in our twin-turbocharged V8-powered BMW 750i test car and drove 300 miles, just to spend 20 minutes in a zero-emissions car.
Sure there were plenty of other “green” cars on hand, including several Japanese hybrids and German diesels that are already on the market, but the Circuit is a stand-out vehicle in a lineup of green alternatives, due to its sporty Dodge looks and impressive performance. We were, however, surprised that the car was painted black… and not the bright orange we had seen before. (A Chrysler rep told us there are actually three Circuit EVs in existence).
Powered by two lithium-ion battery packs, the Circuit EV makes 268hp and can hit 60 mph in less than five seconds. As the route we took consisted of a lap around downtown Detroit, the speed limits didn’t allow for any shenanigans, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t tromp on the go pedal a few times.
It’s somewhat strange that there is only one gear, as you often get the feeling you should be doing something other than just holding on. The lack of “shift shock” actually makes the car feel less speedy than it is, especially once you get higher in the mph range. Off the line, however, there is plenty of readily-available torque.
The Circuit EV is somewhat heavier than it looks and we’d suggest some larger brakes for the production model, but the added weight gives a great road-hugging center of gravity and the driving dynamics are very Lotus-like, which is to say, impressive! We tossed the car through the only real corner we found on the drive and it felt incredibly well-planted.
In terms of functionality the Circuit is a tiny sports car and so it’s not easy to get in and out of. That one trait aside, it would make for a superb commuter car with an electric range of 150 to 200 miles. Chrysler ENVI senior manger John Myers (the man who oversees all electric vehicles at Chrysler) told us that due to several different battery packs (found in some of the other Chrysler electric vehicles), that range could be extended.
Inside the Circuit is, again, very Lotus-like, with some serious light weight seats and not much else. Despite the Spartan interior, however, there is a nice two-tone design to the cockpit with cream leather on the dash top. Myers says that were the car to make it to production, it would receive a corporate Chrysler transformation, with more user-friendly buttons and more attractive gauges. As it stands the dull Lotus units work fine, although we did notice one amusing trait; the gas gauge always shows that the gas tank is empty… which couldn’t be more accurate.
As for the rest of the driving experience, it wasn’t at all bothersome that the car is mostly silent to drive. In fact, it actually makes a slight whine, not unlike the sound of a supercharger. What is odd, however, is watching someone else drive up in the car… in complete and utter silence.
Impressively, for a concept car, the Circuit is well-finished and one might even say it’s showroom ready, with fit, finish and build quality all top-notch and a driving experience that is just-about the same as a production car.
Chrysler still has no immediate plans to bring the Circuit EV (or any of its electric vehicles) to market. Then again, right now nothing at Chrysler is certain.
If one of the EV platforms (which also include Jeep and Chrysler models) does get chosen for production we hope it’s the Circuit EV. While it doesn’t offer the mass-production appeal that will please the accountants, those willing to buy such a green sports car likely won’t mind paying the premium to drive it. Besides, it definitely has a niche-market marketing quality that Dodge could help build a whole new brand image behind.
Myers did tell us that the Circuit is more than just a flash in the pan for Chrysler. Since the car was first unveiled it has received several updates and continues to be a work-in-progress, with the designers even working on a slightly different front end that allows slightly better ground-clearance.
Myers said they want to be read if and when a car like the Circuit EV gets the go-ahead.
Check back in the next few days for a full review of the car in our “Reviews” section, as well as some video of the drive and a chat with Chrysler NV boss John Myers.
GALLERY: Dodge Circuit EV
More ont he Dodge Circuit EV after the jump:
Dodge Circuit EV
- Dodge Circuit EV: brand new version of all-electric sports car boasts unique, fearless Dodge design
- All-electric vehicle delivers sports car performance with zero gasoline consumption, zero tailpipe emissions and 241-322 kilometer (150-200 mile) driving range
Geneva , Feb 19, 2009 – The Dodge Circuit EV prototype displays bold exterior and interior styling with outstanding performance, zero gasoline consumption and zero tailpipe emissions.
The Dodge Circuit EV design screams pure sports car from every angle. The Dodge Circuit EV’s profile demonstrates perfect proportions for balanced handling, placing the driver and passenger midway along the wheelbase. At the front of the vehicle, the distinctive Dodge crosshair grille splits the wind, sending it over the long, low hood and cleanly over the windshield and cockpit. The body sides feature a deep scallop, providing visual depth and also a functional rear-brake air duct. At the rear, the functional elements blend with design to create a uniform finish.
“The exterior styling of the Dodge Circuit EV mates bold Dodge styling to the no-compromise performance attributes of an all-electric performance sports car,” said Ralph Gilles, Vice President – Design, Chrysler LLC. “The Dodge Circuit EV offers an extremely fun-to-drive, expressive sports car without fuel consumption and with virtually no impact on the environment.”
The Dodge Circuit EV is adorned in all-new “Tangoreen” exterior color, wearing large “EV” graphics on both sides of the sports car.
The uncomplicated interior of the Dodge Circuit EV delivers a combination of pure function and athletic refinement. The cockpit design puts complete control of the car at the driver’s fingertips. Nestled within a leather-covered instrument cluster are two primary analog-face gauges. A digital display conveys information regarding the electric-drive system.
The seats feature deep bolsters and are covered in premium leather. The same premium leather covers the center console and the width of the instrument panel.
The Dodge Circuit EV delivers all of the convenience features of a performance sports car, including premium sound system, power windows and door locks, air conditioning and speed control.
Propelled by a completely electric ENVI drivetrain, the Dodge Circuit EV posts impressive performance numbers:
- 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) in less than 5 seconds
- 402 meters (¼-mile) in 13 seconds
- Top speed of more than 193 km/h (120 mph)
Perhaps the most impressive Dodge Circuit EV number, however, is zero. That’s how much gasoline the vehicle consumes while providing exhilarating sports car performance. It’s also how much tailpipe emissions are produced.
The Dodge Circuit EV utilizes just three powertrain components. These include a 200 kW (268 horsepower) electric motor to drive the wheels, an advanced lithium-ion battery system to power the electric-drive motor, and a controller that manages energy flow.
Working with the latest advanced lithium-ion battery technology, the Dodge Circuit EV has a driving range of 241 to 322 kilometers (150 to 200 miles) between charges – more than triple the average daily commute of most consumers. Recharging the vehicle is a simple one-step process: plugging into a standard 110-volt household outlet. The recharge time can be cut in half by using a typical 220-volt household appliance power outlet.
The Dodge Circuit EV offers driving enthusiasts a performance sports car that can be driven to work every day – without consuming gasoline or producing tailpipe emissions.
Dodge Circuit EV Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle Type Battery Electric Vehicle, two-passenger performance coupe
Weight and Dimensions
Length 3900 mm / 153.5 inches
Width 1714 mm / 67.5 inches
Height 1150 mm / 45.3 inches
Wheelbase 2330 mm / 91.7 inches
Track front 1457 mm / 57.4 inches
Track rear 1490 mm / 58.7 inches
Turn circle 11.6 m / 38.0 feet
Powertrain and Suspension
Layout Rear-wheel drive
Motor Power: 200 kW (268 hp)
Battery Lithium-ion battery
Suspension Front – independent
Rear – independent
Wheels and Tires
Tire size front P195 / 45ZR17 607 mm / 23.9 inches
Tire size rear P235 / 40ZR18 645 mm / 25.4 inches
Interior Black leather with Satin Silver accents
Key Performance Attributes
0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) Less than 5 seconds
Standing 402 m (¼-mile) Low-13 seconds
Top speed Greater than 193 km/h (120 mph) All-electric range 241-322 km (150-200 miles)