Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., long outgunned and undermanned in the contest to develop electric vehicles, is signaling a gentle change in course.
The company is taking steps to make choosing and buying an electric or hybrid vehicle easier. One way to make it easier is that consumers can now purchase Mopar’s 240-volt wall-charger on Amazon.com. It also plans to support quality installation services for any branded EV charger, giving customers a fast and convenient way to charge their vehicles at home.
Using an outside vendor to sell the equipment necessary to charge an FCA electrified vehicle is a far cry from the late Sergio Marchionne’s plea to the public as CEO several years ago to not buy its Fiat 500 EV because of the loss the company took on each vehicle.
“Our industry is approaching an inflection point in demand for affordable long-range electric vehicles,” said Micky Bly, head of Global Propulsion System Engineering, FCA.
“This action is just one of FCA’s efforts to improve awareness and convenience in the EV purchase experience. We see opportunities to make owning an EV easier and creating a simple solution for at-home charging is among them.”
Additional FCA consumer websites will offer the same solution as the company launches more than 30 electrified nameplates by 2022. The 2020 calendar year will bring seven new EVs to the FCA global line-up, including a number of electrified Jeep vehicles, a second-generation Fiat 500 BEV, Fiat Ducato BEV and Maserati’s first hybrid.
Among the questions for customers looking to make the switch to electric vehicles is where and how to set up a charger in their home. By offering the charging apparatus through Amazon, the company helps take the guesswork out of the equation.
Vehicles are only part of the EV equation. EV customers also need the ability to charge their vehicles conveniently and affordably. FCA has signed two agreements in Europe with energy sector leaders Enel X and Engie to support corporate production and distribution of PHEV and BEV vehicles. These agreements allow dealers to offer charging solutions and services tailored to the needs of retail and business customers.
Through a partnership with Terna, an electricity provider in Italy, FCA will study how EVs interact with the distribution network. An experimental two-way charging infrastructure built within the Mirafiori district will provide energy from cars to the grid when electrical demand is high and return to vehicle charging when the demand is low.
FCA officials said the company has laid out a long-term strategy for transitioning to EVs. The Ram 1500 and Jeep Wrangler with eTorque and the company is spending nearly $800 million to develop and produce the BEV Fiat 500 as well as mild hybrid systems for the 500 and Panda. All are examples of technology adaptation on high-volume vehicles.
In addition, the Chrysler Pacifica PHEV is America’s first and only hybrid minivan, and its natural drive cycle as a local-use family vehicle benefits from a pure electric range of 32 miles, after which it continues to operate as a hybrid.
The announcement represents a change in policy from attitude for the automaker; however, new regulations in China and a new emphasis on sustainability in Europe has forced carmakers to make substantial investments in EVs.