Detriot - They provide hints of what future vehicles might look like, but DaimlerChrysler AG's four concept vehicles at the North American International Auto Show primarily explore alternatives to the traditional gasoline engine.
The Jeep Commander concept is particularly interesting, perhaps offering a glimpse at what DaimlerChrysler has in mind for a production sport-utility larger than the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The Commander uses fuel cells to generate electricity to power two electric motors. The Commander would have a minimal impact on the environment, said Chris Borroni-Bird, senior manager of technology strategy planning.
The electric motors - one for each axle - are borrowed from DaimlerChrysler's electric minivan.
The Commander's fuel-cell technology needs more work before it can turn gasoline into electricity to power the electric motors. In a fuel cell, oxygen from the air and hydrogen-based fuel are combined in a chemical reaction that produces electricity and water. With the Commander, DaimlerChrysler wants to extract the necessary hydrogen from gasoline stored on board the vehicle.
To cut weight, the Commander's body would be made from injection-molded plastic. The concept unveiled Sunday has a carbon fiber body to simulate the weight savings that could be achieved with injection-molded plastic.
The Commander would have a range of 600 miles, at 25 to 30 mpg.
'We're sufficiently encouraged that we feel it is worth pursuing further,' Borroni-Bird said.
While the Commander is a study in fuel cells, the Dodge Charger R/T concept features a supercharged 4.7-liter V-8 engine that runs on compressed natural gas.
The Charger R/T pays homage to the muscle-car era but combines 325 hp with low smog-producing emissions.
While the concept shares the long nose and rearward cab of the original, it is shorter - 187 inches in length, compared with 203 inches for the 1966 Charger. It is built on a new rear-drive platform.
The Charger R/T features a storage tank that could provide enough compressed gas for a 300-mile range without compromising storage space in the trunk, said Bill Burkmyre, engineering manager for truck special programs.
With this breakthrough in packaging, CNG now can be considered a viable alternative in vehicles other than vans and trucks.
The CNG storage cylinders are shaped like a conventional gasoline tank and store the fuel at 3,600 pounds of pressure per square inch. They are wrapped in a hybrid mix of high-strength carbon and tough glass filaments wound with an epoxy resin.
The innovation is a product of the collaboration of DaimlerChrysler, Siemens Automotive, the U.S. Department of Energy, and John Hopkins University.
The Chrysler Citadel is an all-wheel-drive sport wagon that draws power from two sources. A 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine generates 253 hp and drives the rear wheels. The front wheels are powered by two electric motors from Siemens Automotive. The electric motors add another 70 hp. Lead acid batteries are used to power the electric motors.
The Dodge Power Wagon, DaimlerChrysler's fourth concept vehicle this year, takes design cues from the rugged and simple 1946 Dodge Power Wagon. It features a 7.2-liter, direct-injection I-6 turbocharged diesel engine.
The Power Wagon's engine generates 780 pounds-feet of torque, compared with 450 pounds-feet of torque in the 8.0-liter V-10 gasoline engine now used in the Dodge Ram pickup truck.
It burns a clean, sulfur-free 'designer' fuel that DaimlerChrysler is developing with a company called Syntroleum.