Chrysler, EPA Partnership Hint at Hybrid Minivan

Chrysler and the Environmental Protection Agency announced today a joint venture to develop a hybrid system that could eventually come to the automaker’s large cars and trucks.

The powertrain is a hydraulic hybrid system, which is similar to those powering hybrid public buses and large commercial trucks today. The system pairs a traditional gasoline engine with a hydraulic pump, electric motor and a two-speed automatic transmission. The hydraulic pump pushes high-pressured fluid from an accumulator to an axle hydraulic motor, which then powers the wheels. Like a more traditional hybrid system, the pump takes pressure off the gasoline powertrain during initial acceleration and deceleration, which in turn increases gas mileage.

While the system will still take some time to scale down — the system currently requires a 14.4-gallon high-pressure accumulator on top of traditional gas tank — it does suggest that Chrysler is taking a new interest toward hybrid technology.

The automaker currently has no hybrid systems, but CEO Sergio Marchionne has said a hybrid model could show up soon. During a Q&A session at the launch of the new 2011 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan yesterday, Marchionne said a hybrid minivan and the Chrysler 300 hybrid would arrive at dealerships by 2013, according to, a Chrysler enthusiast website as well as other outlets in attendance. That would coincide well with Marchionne’s desire to better differentiate the automaker’s two minivans and make them “more versatile.”

The hydraulic hybrid system is slated to go into a 2011 Chrysler Town & Country, which is mated to a 2.4-liter four-cylinder for testing purposes.

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