Over the past week, the Mopar world has been abuzz with the recent Dodge//SRT announcement of producing an electrified muscle car in 2024. There have been both pros and cons to the announcement in the Mopar community. While the supercharged HEMI era may be ending, the internal combustion engine (ICE) era is not.
Yes, there will still be HEMI engines and even the introduction of a turbocharged inline-six engine, but the Dodge brand will be featuring electrification throughout the lineup. This includes mild-hybrid (mHEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and battery-electric (BEV) vehicles. While the “petrol heads” are somewhat upset, many tend to forget that the Dodge brand actually came close to bringing an electric car to market a decade ago.
In 2008, the Chrysler Group which was then run by the “three-headed dog” (Cerberus Captial Management) had formed the ENVI group. ENVI – representing the first four letters of “environmental”, was to become the company’s in-house organization formed to focus on electric-drive production vehicles and related advanced technologies.
Among the first vehicles produced by the group was an electric sports car, called originally the Dodge EV (later called the Dodge Circuit EV). Instead of building a new vehicle from the ground up, ENVI went the original route of Tesla with its electric Roadster. The Circuit EV was based on the European Lotus Europa (a slightly bigger version of the Lotus Elise, in which the Tesla Roadster was based) and featured a liquid-cooled 268 horsepower (200 kW) electric motor putting out 295 lb.-ft. of torque with a 35-kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
Originally, just showcasing the ENVI powertrain, the then Dodge EV was introduced at the Geneva International Auto Show featuring the Europa’s exterior. It proved to be a mild success on the international auto show circuit. Before it was publicly shown at the 2009 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, the car got Dodge-specific looks and an official name.
The “Tangoreen” colored Dodge Circuit EV rolled out on the center stage of NAIAS, along with the Chrysler 200C EV Concept, Chrysler Town & Country EV, Jeep® Patriot EV, and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV in a move that shocked the automotive world. Nobody knew that the Chrysler Group had been quietly working on so many electrified vehicles that looked production-ready.
The Circuit EV had separated itself from the Europa thanks to a new front fascia featuring the signature Dodge crosshair grille, unique side skirts, and revised rear fascia. The Europa’s exterior design gave the Circuit EV’s profile near-perfect proportions for balanced handling, placing the driver and passenger halfway within the wheelbase. The body sides still featured a deep scallop, providing visual depth and also a functional rear-brake air duct.
Inside, the car featured a push-button drive selector, Chrysler-spec MyGIG infotainment system, and unique interior material treatments including a leather-covered instrument cluster with two primary analog-face gauges. A digital display conveys information regarding the electric-drive system, while the cockpit’s design puts all controls within the fingertips of the driver. The Dodge-branded 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 Circuit EV also featured all of the convenience features of a performance sports car, including a premium sound system, power windows and door locks, air conditioning, and speed control.
“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, Head of Design – Stellantis when the Circuit made its original debut in Detroit. “The Dodge Circuit EV offers an extremely fun-to-drive, expressive sports car without fuel consumption and with virtually no impact on the environment.”
When it came to battery performance, the lightweight Europa chassis offered the ENVI electrified powertrain a driving range of 150 to 200 miles (241 to 322 kilometers) between charges, depending on how hard it’s driven. Stellantis’ recent EV Day 2021 Presentation, told us that the upcoming STLA Small platform will have a 300 mile (500 kilometers) range with an 87 kWh battery pack once it debuts in 2026.
As for charging, the Circuit EV could be recharged between 90 minutes to 12 hours depending on the chosen power source. Last week, Stellantis promised us a class-leading fast charging capability of 32 km/20 miles per minute.
But how did the package perform? According to ENVI, the 2,650 lb. (1,202 kg) Dodge Circuit EV could run 0 to 62 mph (0 to 100 km/h) in 4.7 seconds, could run the quarter-mile in 13-seconds flat, and featured a top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h).
Several prototypes were built and tested at facilities in Michigan, Arizona, and even the United Kingdom. Chrysler Group originally had plans for the Circuit EV to become the first production vehicle produced by the ENVI team. A business plan similar to Tesla’s Roadster was planned with the car to be assembled by Lotus and then shipped to the U.S. for ENVI to install the electrified powertrain. Several press members and even employees outside the program at Chrysler had documented rides in various prototypes through the late 2000s.
Unfortunately, as part of the 2009 automotive bailout, the U.S. government would force Chrysler Group to abandon most of its $448 million ($536 million in 2021) investment in electric vehicles. This was primarily due to the fact of the number of sales of electric vehicles at the time. However, Chrysler would go on to produce a PHEV version of the 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 for certain municipalities as well as a Town & Country EV for the United States Postal Service (USPS) that was produced in limited numbers, but nothing for retail customers until the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.
So what do you think of the decade-old Dodge Circuit EV? Do you think a modern-day take on the Circuit could be a hit? Let us know in the comments below or the MoparInsiders forums.
Dodge Circuit EV – 2008 Version Image Gallery:
Dodge Circuit EV – 2009 Version Image Gallery: