Looking Back At The 2009 Dodge Circuit Electric Vehicle (EV)

Dodge's Tesla Roadster Fighter, That Almost Was...

In September 2007, Chrysler LLC announced the formation of ENVI – representing the first four letters of “environmental” – the new in-house organization was to focus on electric-drive production vehicles and related advanced technologies. Led by Lou Rhodes, President – ENVI, and Vice President – Advanced Vehicle Engineering, the ENVI team had access to the vast resources within Chrysler. However, ENVI would be virtually unknown until the 2009 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, where it showcased five electrified vehicles (EVs).

2009 Dodge Circuit EV. (Dodge).

One of those vehicles was the Circuit EV, an all-electric Dodge sports car based on the Lotus Europa S. A similar rear mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive (RWD) formula was also under production by then-beginner EV automaker Tesla, using a Lotus Elise chassis. The Circuit EV combined a lithium-ion battery pack with a 200 kW (270 horsepower) and 480 lb.-ft. of torque electric motor.

Compared to the 2009 Tesla Roadster, which had an output of 185 kW (248 horsepower) and 200 lb.-ft. of torque, both cars would use single-speed BorgWarner transmissions.

2009 Dodge Circuit EV. (Dodge).

When it originally debuted, the Circuit EV was just dubbed “EV” and continued to wear Lotus front and rear fascias. An updated version would debut a month later at the Geneva Motor Show, with the Circuit EV name and proudly wearing distinct Dodge-styled front and rear fascias. The team also fitted the car with the MyGIG infotainment system found in numerous Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep®, Ram vehicles at the time.

Head of Stellantis Design, Ralph Gilles, then Vice President of Design, stated, “The Dodge Circuit EV offers an extremely fun-to-drive, expressive sports car without fuel consumption and with virtually no impact on the environment.”

2009 Dodge Circuit EV. (Scott Anderson – Designer).

Inside, the Circuit EV didn’t vary much from the Lotus Europa S that it was based on. Nestled within a leather-covered instrument cluster were two primary analog-face gauges. A digital display conveyed information regarding the electric-drive system. The seats featured deep bolsters and were covered in premium leather. Alcantara covered the center console and the width of the instrument panel.

The Circuit EV also delivered all the convenience features of a traditional sports car at the time, with a premium audio system, power windows, power door locks, air conditioning, and even cruise control.

2009 Dodge Circuit EV. (Dodge).

When it came to performance, Dodge was very secretive about the Circuit EV’s numbers. While they did say it could perform a 0 to 60 mph time of less than 4 seconds, nothing was official. Dodge even showcased an early prototype of the car in a drag race against the then-new 425-horsepower 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 with a 6-speed manual. Dodge claimed the car would complete the 1/4-mile in 13 seconds and had a top speed of 120 mph. Again, the numbers were very similar to the Tesla Roadster.

When it came to charging and range, the numbers don’t seem impressive in today’s standards. The Circuit EV delivered a range varying from 150 to 200 miles (241 to 322 km) depending on driving style. Recharging was very simple, as it could be plugged into a standard 120-volt outlet for 8 hours of recharge time, or about 4 hours using a 240-volt outlet. Sorry, no DC fast-charging capability here.

2009 Dodge Circuit EV. (Dodge).

ENVI went on to build several prototypes of the Circuit EV with intentions to bring it to production in 2010. However, the economic collapse during the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 made Chrysler go into cost-cutting mode, and the program ended once Chrysler LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on April 30, 2009. In November of that year, FIAT disbanded ENVI and dropped its entire lineup from its future product plans.

Considering the position Tesla is in now, it would have been interesting to see what ENVI could have accomplished if the “Great Recession” hadn’t happened.

2009 Dodge Circuit EV Image Gallery:

Source: Scott Anderson / Coroflot.com

Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only the Editor for MoparInsiders.com, 5thGenRams.com, and HDRams.com but an automotive photographer. He is an avid fan of offshore powerboat racing, which he travels the country to take part in.

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There is one project that lived into the FCA era, but only briefly. The newly formed FCA did try to sell a battery electric van to the USPS, but the government didn't think the company would last. FCA also produced a Lotus competitor, the Alfa Romeo 4C. Not electrifying that model into a Dodge Circuit was a missed opportunity, IMO.

As much as I believe the Cerberus gang were running a smoke show to help flip the company, the ENVI concepts had a desirability factor which seems missing from the latest CDJR products. I have already mentioned the Dodge ZEO in another thread, I don't know if that concept was part of the ENVI project because it predates that by a few months. The Chrysler 200 PHEV concept was presented as an ENVI project and embodied that desirability missing from the eventual production model. We really did get a plugin minivan, the Pacifica PHEV. It now has been around nearly eight model years and has changed very little. The hybrid system the Pacifica uses has not been used in any other Stellantis products or received any major updates. How many generations of the Toyota hybrid system have there been in that time? Toyota is on the fifth generation, and I think the last two have been during the time of the Pacifica hybrid.

When I participated in the CAB conversations, I remember how the Jeep Patriot ENVI concept resonated with a lot of us. While it was only a front drive vehicle, a simple utilitarian EV with a range extender, the drive train came from an outside vendor, but it represents what a lot of people wanted at that time. I think a lot of consumers still desire a very basic efficient utility vehicle. Ford thinks so and offers the Maverick hybrid, although that is mostly a smoke show. The Ford Bronco Sport's success in the marketplace shows evidence that desire remains. North America never received the Renegade 4Xe. It could of been a winner.

The front-drive based 4Xe system did cross the pond in the Alfa Romeo Tonale and Dodge Hornet. When I see the Dodge ZEO and Circuit concepts, I'm saddened that the Hornet is what we get instead. Don't get me wrong, the PHEV drivetrain in the Tonale and Hornet models is far superior to what was under the hood of most of the ENVI concepts, but that "gotta have it" is missing from the Dodge.

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Short and sweet. This is so clearly the type of car Dodge MUST build it makes me sick to look at it. If Dodge does not build a compact sport coupe off the STLA Midsize platform, that is tragic. Look at this for inspiration, imagine a sporty, affordable Dodge and frankly with sadness also the short sighted management types ruining Dodge who will pass on it most likely. Base four, hybrid electric and all electric in something like this, just too obvious, logical and for Dodge necessary. Sad the obvious is hard to see in the lofty heights of upper management. Feeling sick right now.

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So much of Chrysler Corp was destroyed by the crappy Daimler merger. Cerberus was a joke. FCA was another European domination. The Europeans just don't get why we Americans love are cars. Europe cars are utilitarian and are pretty soulless. The newer FCA/Stellantis products are a hit or miss. The Pacifica and Ram was hit, the new Wagoneer and Grand Cherokee and Renegade was miss. You can tell that newer products are moving away to more European design. Miss my 300M, 15 Dodge Dart.

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