Another 99GC Award, More Commander Info

Date 1999/1/7 0:00:00 | Topic: Grand Cherokee

The 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee was awarded the 1999 North American Truck of the Year. Here's the scoop from the DaimlerChrysler press release:

The all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee was named the 1999 North American Truck of the Year, announced today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.

The North American Truck of the Year jury, consisting of 48 of the most influential automotive journalists in the United States and Canada, selected the Jeep Grand Cherokee over some significant competitors, including the Chevrolet Silverado, Cadillac Escalade, Land Rover Discovery and Lexus LX470.

North American Truck of the Year juror Christopher Jensen said, ``The 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee sets the new standard among sport utilities for the magical mixture of pavement prowess with an undiluted ability to handle hardcore, off-road challenges.''

Adds juror Ken Gross, ``Whether you want it for family fun or luxurious cruising, the Grand Cherokee, with a lusty 4.7 liter V-8, will tow your boat, haul your horses, impress your neighbors, please your accountant and not scare your banker.''

``We couldn't be more pleased,'' said Martin R. Levine, DaimlerChrysler (NYSE: DCX - news) Vice President and General Manager of the Chrysler-Plymouth and Jeep Divisions, ``but we're not totally surprised. We set out to build the most capable sport-utility ever, in terms of on-road refinement, while improving the legendary Jeep off-road performance. Receiving North American Truck of the Year honors is wonderful confirmation.''

The 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee is produced at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan and at Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Graz, Austria for markets outside of North America.

Our continuing coverage of the Jeep Commander concept car, today (in addition to a couple of new pictures) we're presenting some information about the Commander's unique fuel cell system...

Only an idea existed two years ago when the former Chrysler Corporation proposed that gasoline could be turned into electric energy with a fuel cell.

That idea has taken shape in the Jeep Commander concept vehicle, yet the technology still needs significant development before it is proven to be feasible. The Jeep Commander concept vehicle was debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show and, as promised, provides a status report on efforts to develop that technology.

"The experiment was a success in terms of the knowledge gained, even if all the technical challenges to turn gasoline into electricity have not been solved," said Bernard Robertson, Senior Vice President-Engineering Technologies and General Manager-Truck Operations. "We are excited about the possibilities."

The Jeep Commander runs on electric power, but the fuel cell "powertrain" is not functional. DaimlerChrysler plans to have a working methanol, hybrid fuel cell system in the Commander by the end of 1999.

Fuel cells create their own electricity. Oxygen from the air and hydrogen fuel are combined in a chemical reaction that produces electricity and water. Overall vehicle efficiency has the potential to be improved by 50 percent and emissions can range from zero to just 10 percent of today's vehicles.

The question is, "Where does the vehicle get hydrogen fuel?" While pure hydrogen is the ideal fuel in terms of fuel cell system efficiency, ease of operation and the complete elimination of emissions, hydrogen fuel cannot be found at the corner filling station. Hence, fuel cell researchers looked into ways to extract hydrogen from the most commonly available transportation fuel-gasoline.

"We knew we were taking the most difficult path when we chose to pursue gasoline reformation and we did prove that part true," Robertson added. "Through that process, we're more certain that methanol will be the best fuel to power fuel cells when they are introduced into the marketplace around 2004."

Although methanol cannot readily be found at filling stations, in the future it could be delivered through the existing fuel infrastructure. Reforming methanol is simpler than gasoline and produces even lower emissions than a gasoline powered fuel cell.

"We're not completely abandoning the research to reform gasoline into hydrogen, but it will take a back seat," Robertson explained. DBB Fuel Cell Engines, a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler, Ballard and Ford Motor Co., will continue its research with Shell Oil Co. to develop the technology. The contract between Delphi Automotive and the former Chrysler Corp. to develop the identical technology was completed as scheduled on December 15, 1998.

The Jeep Commander's next technology step will be integrating fuel cell hardware from the Necar 3, the world's first methanol powered, passenger-car sized fuel cell vehicle. The Jeep's new powertrain, to be developed later in 1999, will include supplemental battery power to improve performance and system warm up times.

"DaimlerChrysler's combined expertise and resources allows us to look at the broadest array of fuel cell technology," Robertson said. "Synergies like this give us a competitive advantage and maximum flexibility to respond to the rapid changes in the industry."

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