The Chrysler Halcyon concept reminds us that the company can be more than just minivans

Chrysler, which is about to turn 100 next year, used to make a variety of models but is now a brand best known for its Pacifica minivans. But today the company is trying to make a bold statement about its future by introducing a concept car that’s about as far removed 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, the Halcyon is intended to demonstrate that the minivan company is doing more than just sitting around and thinking about, well, minivans.

“We certainly want Chrysler to be progressive,” Chrysler brand CEO Christine Fuell said in a briefing last month. “But we want to bring technology and advanced experiences to real life, and not just as a science project.”

Chrysler has said it plans to sell only electric vehicles by the end of 2028, and the Halcyon is intended as a demonstration of how the company will deploy future technologies. But it is not a production-ready vehicle and lacks many relevant specifications, such as battery capacity, range, performance and more. Think of it more as a full-car version of the cockpit demonstrator that Chrysler released at CES over a year ago.

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

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

The concept car rides extremely low to the ground — Chrysler says it will have only about four inches of ground clearance — and also features four doors that open outward, like French doors, or as Chrysler calls it, “red carpet style.” An awning with butterfly hinges on either side also provides more space when getting in and out of this extremely low concept.

Chrysler also uses many recycled materials for the interior, including the automaker’s wing logos, which are made from ground-up and recycled music CDs. Overall, the company says 95 percent of the interior is made from “sustainable” materials.

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

There are also plenty of visual and audio features designed to make you feel more comfortable by creating a zen-like environment. And when the car is fully autonomous, the steering yoke and pedals fold away to create a more comfortable seating arrangement.

This concept really leans into the idea that we will soon all be driving around in fully self-driving vehicles that we own – a theory that has been largely debunked by experts. If and when we get self-driving vehicles, they will almost certainly be fleet-owned vehicles deployed for commercial services such as delivery services and robotaxis.

Still, Chrysler wants to make sure it’s ready for an autonomous future, so it’s tricking the Halcyon accordingly. The concept (and possible future Chrysler vehicles) will be equipped with self-driving features such as “a dimmable glass top and a windshield that can turn opaque while the seats recline for a unique augmented reality Stargazing mode.” Sounds amazing.

In 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 clearly 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 be completely hands-off, eyes off and still meet the safety requirements that we have to meet.”

Other futuristic and unproven features include “Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer (DWPT) technology to charge the vehicle wirelessly while driving, allowing for unlimited range.” The idea is that the Halcyon will charge itself while driving on roads with inductive charging capabilities – again, something that is nowhere to be found today. Chrysler says the concept will feature an 800-volt lithium-sulfur battery, which it says has an estimated 60 percent lower carbon footprint than other EV batteries.

The Halcyon is a fun science project, but the real test will come in 2025, when Chrysler expects to unveil its first electric car. The company has already shown the Airflow SUV, a prototype that is almost ready for production and will probably serve as the basis for the future EV.

The company discontinued the Chrysler 300 sedan last year, leaving the Pacifica and Pacifica hybrid as the only remaining models. About 133,000 minivans were sold last year, making it one of Stellantis’ worst-performing brands. Whether that’s enough revenue to start the expensive process of developing an all-electric range of vehicles remains to be seen. But Feuell said the company is well positioned to achieve its goals.

“Look, I’d always like to have more and faster,” she said. “We have significantly improved the brand’s profitability over the past two years. And that helps fund the new product development that you will see in the future.”

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