400-mile Chrysler Airflow Concept leads brand’s EV strategy

Chrysler will use the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show starting in Las Vegas later today to announce plans to launch its first electric vehicle by 2025, and eventually a full-electric lineup by as early as 2028.

As a preview of that electric future, Chrysler will present the Airflow Concept, an electric crossover with a dual-motor powertrain and enough battery capacity for up to 400 miles of range.

Beyond the powertrain, the Airflow also hints at new connectivity features that we’ll likely see coming to Chrysler cars in the not too distant future. These include an operating system known as STLA Brain, which will enable over-the-air updates.

Chrysler Airflow concept

Chrysler Airflow concept

There’s also an interface known as STLA SmartCockpit, which includes touchscreen displays for the instrument cluster, central infotainment hub, and one exclusive to the front seat passenger. Chrysler said the Airflow also has a camera facing each seat, enabling occupants to participate in a video conference call if desired.

A third future tech preview in the Airflow is STLA AutoDrive. This is the branding for Stellantis’ future driver-assist features, including eventually full self-driving systems. The Airflow is said to be fitted with a self-driving system rated at Level 3 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability. There was no mention of what situations the Airflow can handle itself in, but the Level 3 rating indicates that, in certain situations, the concept can handle itself but requires the driver to be ready to take back control at any time.

Chrysler die-hards will be quick to note that the Airflow name dates back to 1934. The original Chrysler Airflow (actually a family of models) was the first production car designed for low aerodynamic drag using a wind tunnel. That gave it distinctive streamlined styling, which didn’t suit the tastes of most buyers at the time. Chrysler quickly restyled the Airflow, then dropped it completely after 1937.

Chrysler Airflow concept

Chrysler Airflow concept

While it was a sales dud, the Airflow’s emphasis on aerodynamics, as well its all-steel construction, set the tone for future cars. Given the importance of a low drag coefficient for maximizing efficiency and range, the Airflow also seems like an appropriate reference for an EV.

Chrysler hasn’t provided many specifics on its EV plans, but we know the brand has access to a total of four platforms for EVs being developed by parent company Stellantis. The platforms will offer up to 500 miles of range and deliver up to 4.3 kwh/mile efficiency in some models, according to Stellantis.

Stellantis has also signed a memorandum of understanding with LG Energy Solution for potential battery supply in North America, and is funding solid-state battery developer Factorial.

Chrysler Airflow concept

Chrysler Airflow concept

CEO Carlos Tavares has said, however, that the added cost of making EVs is “beyond the limits” for what the industry can sustain.

Chrysler’s only current plug-in vehicle is the Pacifica Hybrid minivan. Also available with a conventional gasoline powertrain, the Pacifica (along with the Voyager sub-model) itself makes up one of half of Chrysler’s current lineup, alongside the 300 sedan.

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