By Jennifer Geiger on April 19, 2012
It's been awhile since we've heard any electric-car news from Chrysler; its ENVI electric car division dissolved when bankruptcy struck the company in 2009. It looks like an alternative-fuel program is back in the form of a fleet of plug-in hybrid Town & Country minivans.
Eight hybrid vans were delivered to Duke Energy in Charlotte, N.C., as part of a two-year test program. Employees of the electric power holding company will drive the vans during a two-year study to gauge how the technology performs in a minivan during real-world driving conditions. The automaker is working with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a total of 25 test units. The city of Auburn Hills, Mich., is also testing four of the vehicles during the next two years.
"Chrysler is looking forward to the two years of real-world data that will be obtained. Such data will enable Chrysler engineers to assess the viability of the technology for future applications," Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of the Chrysler Group's advanced hybrid vehicle project, said in a statement.
Power for the plug-in hybrid van comes from Chrysler's 3.6-liter V-6 engine paired with a two-mode hybrid transmission. It's augmented by a 12.1 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. Combined, the pair makes 290 horsepower. Chrysler lists a range of 700 miles and says charging times are two to four hours on a Level 2 220-volt charge unit and eight to 15 hours if using a 110-volt Level 1 charge outlet.
Though no production plans have been announced, Chrysler is also evaluating a fleet of plug-in hybrid Ram pickup trucks.
Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan. Email Jennifer