DETROIT -- Fiat's preference to use its own powertrain technology in future Chrysler Group products will not derail Chrysler's plan to launch an electric vehicle, said Chrysler's powertrain chief.
Robert Lee, vice president of powertrain product engineering, said Chrysler and other major automakers must sell electric vehicles in California and the 13 other states that follow California's emissions standards.
Those other states: Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Starting in 2012, at least 3 percent of major automakers' sales in those states will have to be of battery-powered electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids.
"We are being driven by the ZEV [zero-emissions vehicle] mandate," Lee told a conference of electrical engineers and students in suburban Detroit last week. "We must have an electric vehicle.
"You'll see an electric vehicle for sure. And then you'll see something else. I'm not sure if it is a hybrid or a range-extender."
The term range-extender refers to a hybrid that uses a gasoline engine to charge the batteries on a plug-in hybrid.
"The question is timing," Lee said. "Right now there is a raging debate inside the company about which one will come out of the chute first."
Fiat is reviewing all Chrysler Group vehicles. But a Chrysler spokesman said the company's plans for electric and hybrid vehicles have not changed since Fiat's arrival.
Before Fiat took over Chrysler in June, Chrysler showed three electrically driven vehicles under development: a battery-powered electric sports car based on a Lotus Europa and two plug-in hybrids with gasoline engines that recharge the batteries.
Chrysler officials said they planned to build one by late 2010.
Lee did not disclose the timing for the launch of an electric vehicle.
Fiat has said it favors diesels and, to lower costs, wants to use its own powertrain technology in Chrysler vehicles.