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Chrysler Halcyon concept serves as a reminder that the company can be more than just minivans

Chrysler, set to turn 100 next year, once made a variety of models but is now a brand best known for its Pacifica minivans. But now the company is trying to make a bold statement about its future by introducing a concept car that’s about as far from a minivan as you can get.

The Chrysler Halcyon concept is a stunning, high-tech roadster with an electric powertrain and fully autonomous capabilities. And while the automaker has no immediate plans to put it into production any time soon, the Halcyon aims to demonstrate that the minivan maker is doing more than just sitting and thinking about minivans.

“We want Chrysler to be advanced, that’s for sure,” Christine Feuell, CEO of the Chrysler brand, said at a press briefing last month. “But we want to bring advanced technology and experiments into real life, not just as a science project.”

Chrysler has announced plans to sell only electric vehicles by the end of 2028, and the Halcyon is meant to serve as a demonstration of how the company will deploy future technologies. But it is not a production-ready vehicle, as it lacks many relevant specifications such as battery capacity, range, performance, etc. Instead, think of it as a full automotive version of the cockpit demonstrator that Chrysler showed off more than a year ago at CES.

Halcyon combines a set of technologies under development at Chrysler parent Stellantis, including the STLA Brain operating system, STLA AutoDrive driver assistance and STLA SmartCockpit infotainment system. The Halcyon concept is designed to present all of these products together as one unified system.

The Halcyon is built on Stellantis’ STLA Large platform, which is one of four platforms showcased at the automaker’s EV Day in 2021. (There are STLA Small, STLA Medium, STLA Large and STLA Frame.)

Riding extremely low to the ground – Chrysler says it will only have about four inches of ground clearance – the concept also features four doors that open outward, like French doors, or like Chrysler l It’s called, “red carpet style.” A butterfly-hinged awning on each side also provides more space to get in and out of this extremely low concept.

Chrysler also uses a lot of recycled materials for the interior, including the automaker’s fender logos made from crushed and recycled music CDs. Overall, the company says 95 percent of the interior is made from “sustainable” materials.

Of course, artificial intelligence plays a major role in this concept, as do augmented reality and vehicle connectivity. This includes AI voice assistants, predictive navigation, and over-the-air software updates. The Chrysler Halcyon is a car that will know you based on your preferences and can make preemptive changes to things like the HVAC system when you get in the vehicle.

There are also many visual and audio features designed to make you feel more comfortable creating a zen environment. And when in fully autonomous mode, the steering wheel and pedals fold to create a more comfortable seating arrangement.

This concept really builds on the idea that one day soon we will all be riding in fully driverless vehicles that we own – a theory that has been widely debunked by experts. If and when we have autonomous vehicles, they will almost certainly be fleet-owned vehicles deployed for commercial services, like delivery and robo-taxis.

Still, Chrysler wants to be sure it’s ready for any autonomous future, so it’s tricking out the Halcyon accordingly. The concept (and possible future Chrysler vehicles) will be equipped with autonomous driving features, such as “a dimmable glass canopy and windshield that can turn opaque with relaxed seating for a stargazing mode in unique augmented reality. It looks nice.

During the briefing, Feuell acknowledged that Chrysler still has work to do before it can offer full autonomy to its customers. “The autonomous driving functionality is obviously quite mature at level 2 and level 2 plus,” she said. “As we reach Levels 3 and 4, there is still some development work to be done to not intervene, turn a blind eye and still meet the security requirements that we must meet.”

Other futuristic and unproven features include “Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer (DWPT) technology to wirelessly charge the vehicle while in motion, allowing unlimited range.” The idea is that when you drive on roads that have inductive charging capability – again, not found anywhere today – the Halcyon will charge itself. Chrysler says the concept will feature an 800-volt lithium-sulfur battery, whose carbon footprint it says is estimated to be 60 percent lower than other EV batteries.

The Halcyon is a fun science project, but the real test will come in 2025, when Chrysler plans to unveil its first electric vehicle. The company has already presented the Airflow SUV, a near-production prototype that will likely serve as the basis for the future electric vehicle.

The company discontinued the Chrysler 300 sedan last year, leaving the Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid as the only remaining models. It sold about 133,000 minivans last year, making it one of Stellantis’ worst-performing brands. It remains to be seen whether these revenues will be sufficient to launch the costly process of developing a range of fully electric vehicles. But Feuell said the company is well-positioned to achieve its goals.

“Look, I always wish I had more and faster,” she said. “We have significantly improved the brand’s profitability over the past two years. And it helps fund the development of new products that you’ll see in the future.

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