Of all the large automotive companies out there, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles hasn’t been all that active on the electrified front. It’s been content with carrying on their run of traditional petrol and diesel engines, and for a collection of marques known for specialising in SUVs and sports cars, that seems perfectly natural.
That’s not to say it had not made technological strides elsewhere, but future direction of the automobile points to a very different landscape. Perhaps in a delayed response to this realisation, Chrysler has revealed the Portal concept, their first fully electric vehicle (concept).
As is the norm with these fancy and futuristic concept vehicles, it’s not enough just being electrified. Wowing the masses takes more, and so in addition to the usual laundry list of promised autonomous features, the Portal is a forward-thinking MPV (or 'minivan' as it might be known in the US) with a focus on millennials - whatever that means.
That form factor and fancy side opening electric doors might point to practicality plusses, but Chrysler is more interested in positioning it as a “third space” in addition to the owner's home and office, sequestering its occupants to and from their most frequented locations and saving them from the dread of negotiating routes and dealing with roads.
So while other automakers might be touting performance and acceleration numbers as a selling point for their EVs, the Portal might be for those not bothered by such trivial thrills. It’s for the "millennial" that’s more family-minded, whom values comfort and convenience over flair and speed.
We don’t know about the mechanicals or the strength of Chrysler’s intent to turn it into a production model, but we can extrapolate the emphasis on comfort and convenience. Take the ‘Personalised Audio Zone’ feature that should somehow permit an individual open audio experience, even in close proximity. Outside of headphones or a Cone of Silence, we’re very curious how this is achieved unobtrusively.
Chrysler say the Portal’s batteries will last it over 400km on a single charge and a proprietary charging system that permits a DC Fast Charge of 350kW that can inject roughly 240km of range in 20 minutes.
It’s an interesting, if overdue, step from FCA into the fray of autonomous electric cars that hints at a brave new world of personal mobility. Sure, it’s not real and we might be way off the mark at this early stage, but Chrysler has earned the right to dream.