At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the world had an uncharacteristically futuristic perspective on American automaker, Chrysler. They unveiled the Portal, a concept that’s definitely forward thinking in design and possible engineering scope.
What it is, is a medium-sized MPV that’s powered by electric motors fed by a bank of batteries situated along the car’s floor, a configuration adopted by every modern EV in the past few years. It’s also got unique doors that swing out for both front and rear passenger access.
As concepts go, this is par for the course. It looks striking in that typical sci-fi way, albeit unrealistic in the short term. Or so we thought, as Chrysler executives, including embattled CEO Sergio Marchionne, confirmed during the Detroit Motor show the following week that the Portal is under serious consideration to appear as a full production model within the next few years.
While engaging reporters, Marchionne pegged the car being showroom reality “after 2018” and that their assembly plant in Ontario, Canada (where they currently assemble the similarly sized Pacifica) would be an ideal place for it to also be built.
Tim Kuniskis, head of North American passenger cars for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, was a little reticent about specifying the Portal and their intentions with it. He did, however, confirm to the Detroit Free Press that the firm is gauging interest to inform their future vehicle roadmap.
What is also unclear is the FCA’s level of ambition when it comes to the Portal (or what ever they choose to name it later). Building an EV of any kind at the kind of scale we expect to see from the automotive group would be a monumental undertaking.
The CES concept purports to have a battery pack of approximately 100kWh and feature autonomous driving capabilities, neither of which are disciplines that FCA - including their subsidiaries - have experience in.
Perhaps the Portal, at least in a more feasible short term guise, will appear in showrooms as the template used for the new Pacifica. Perhaps it will also be offered primarily as a hybrid, allowing FCA to wade into the technologies and manufacturing processes involved with electrification. Perhaps by then, their partnership with Alphabet’s (Google) autonomous driving arm Waymo would have flourished enough to include new self driving hardware too.