As the automotive industry moves forward with electrification, its important to note that the Chrysler Group has been hard at work for decades trying to find the next big step in fuel efficiency. Starting with a challenge aimed at Detroit’s Big-3 automakers in 1993 created by the Clinton Administration, the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicle (PNGV) project had the best in Chrysler Group design and engineering working on a vehicle that could achieve over 80 MPG.
One of the vehicles that came out of the project was the 2000 Dodge Intrepid ESX3 Concept. The key theme of this concept was lightweight and low cost without deleting many of the creature comforts found in the company’s other full-size sedans.
The ESX3 Concept’s mild-hybrid electric powertrain combined an efficient diesel engine, an e-motor, and a lithium-ion battery. The diesel engine was mated to an e-motor which would drive the front wheels. The e-motor would capture energy when the vehicle was breaking and store it in a battery-pack located in the trunk.
An electro-mechanical automatic transmission (EMAT) developed by Chrysler Group engineers provided fuel efficiency equivalent of a manual transmission with the convenience of an automatic.
Although the combination did not achieve the PNGV’s goal of 80 MPG, it did accomplish 72 MPG (that’s 2 MPG more than it’s predecessor). Keep in mind that is an equivalent of 72 MPG for gasoline engines, and because its a diesel it equalled out to 80 MPG for a diesel power plant.
Weighing in at just 2,250 lbs (or about 1,200 lbs lighter than a 2000 Intrepid), injection-molded thermoplastics for the car’s body to achieve significant improvements in weight and cost. Despite the weight reduction, the car meet all federal safety standards (FVS) at the time without losing any of the room or comfort of a full-size sedan. The entire vehicle was more than 80% recyclable.
According to a Chrysler press release at the time, the Intrepid ESX3 was estimated to cost $7,500 USD (or about $13,000 USD more with inflation) more than a production Intrepid with an average cost $21,000 USD. At the time, Chrysler said it was far more than what the average buyer would be willing to pay at the time for a high MPG car.
With the push for electric vehicles (EVs), the ESX3 Concept showed how internal combustion paired with electricity could push MPG forward without sacrificing range and recharge time.
2000 Dodge Intrepid ESX3 Concept Image Gallery: