DaimlerChrysler Reports on Dodge ESX3 Hybrid Sedan

March 14, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

The new Dodge ESX3 concept car from DaimlerChrysler Corp. (Detroit, MI) has a hybrid-diesel and electric engine and gets 72mpg while comfortably seating five people with plenty of trunk space. DaimlerChrysler is trying to take the lead on two fronts in the development of advanced-technology vehicles by discussing price (about $28,500 for the ESX3, compared with about $21,000 for today's similarly-sized Dodge Intrepid), and saying that building an affordable car is more important than meeting a strict miles-per-gallon figure.

"People won't pay exclusively for fuel economy. The way to get this car to the market is to make trade-offs to get it close to the point where people will pay for it," said Bernard Robertson, DaimlerChrylser's senior vice president for engineering technologies.

The company said that two years ago the ESX2, the previous concept car, would have cost $15,000 more than an Interpid. DaimlerChrylsler has shaved that price difference in half while raising the fuel economy from 70mpg to 72mpg.

Under the government's Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles program, the Big Three automakers in Detroit have promised production prototypes of vehicles that get 80mpg by 2004. There are cars on the road now that get between 60mps and 70mps, such as the Toyota Prius compact and the two-seater Honda Insight, but DaimlerChrylsler claims they are too small to appeal to American families.

The ESX3, with a body that is mostly plastic, weighs about 1,200lbs less than a steel-framed Intrepid, and can get about 80mpg on diesel fuel, the equivalent of 72mpg of gasoline. The ESX3 gets its power from a three-cylinder diesel engine mated to an electric motor driving the front wheels. The electric motor captures energy used in braking, storing it in a battery pack.

"What consumers want is for us to mass produce moon-shot technology, but at down-to-earth prices," said James Holden, DaimlerChrysler's president. He acknowledged that the ESX3's total package of fuel economy, roominess and affordability, "isn't quite there yet, at least in the form consumers will accept."