While not exactly what I was expecting the company to unveil, Fiat Chrysler’s newly revealed Portal Concept van isn’t vastly different from the fully electric, fully autonomous Pacifica that I was expecting. Just a bit glitzier, and with the weird bits that auto manufacturers seem to always include in concept vehicles. [Editor’s note: The first image below quickly struck me as reminiscent of the Volkswagen I.D. concept EV — even though that’s apparently a much smaller car.]
So what exactly is the Fiat Chrysler Portal concept? It’s an all-electric, semi-autonomous van that was developed with the help of Panasonic, and that looks as though it’s intended for use in on-demand ridesharing services.
The concept van features a 100 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery pack and is reportedly capable of traveling around 250 miles (~400 kilometers) on a single charge. The concept can utilize a 350 kW fast-charger that will reportedly allow for a recharging rate of 150 miles in under 20 minutes. (Note that the first 350 kW superfast-charging station is now under construction in the US — via EVgo — and automakers other than Fiat Chrysler have partnered to build a network of such superfast chargers in Europe.)
Other notable features are: the public-transit-like doors, the interior seating (up to 6 people), and the single electric motor front-wheel drive.
While the concept is “only” capable of semi-autonomous driving for the time being, it was apparently designed so that it could be easily upgradable to fully autonomous capability. The Portal features an array of sensors composed of radar, LiDAR, cameras, and sonar — some of which were provided by collaborator Samsung Electronics.
As it stands, the Portal concept is capable of SAE Level 3 semi-autonomous operation according to Fiat Chrysler — meaning that “drivers” must be present to monitor road and traffic conditions and to take over if need be. The Portal apparently includes an instrument-panel-mounted camera utilizing facial recognition software to monitor that this is taking place (a bit weird, really). If it’s determined that the driver isn’t monitoring the road and refuses to take over, then the Portal will pull over to the side of the road as it’s able to.
While “just” a concept vehicle, I’m curious to see where the company goes with this — the Portal doesn’t appear to be an idle auto show gimmick.
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