Chrysler Will Offer More Hybrids, Including Gas-Electric Minivan

Chrysler will add a hybrid gas-electric minivan to its lineup as early as 2013, Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said Tuesday. This follows news from the 2011 Detroit auto show that Chrysler will produce a gas-electric hybrid version of the Chrysler 300 by 2013. Marchionne made the announcement while addressing workers at Chrysler’s assembly plant in Windsor, Canada.

Production of a fuel-efficient hybrid minivan from one of the leaders in the segment is good news for hybrid fans, which have been clamoring for a seven-seat hybrid minivan since the introduction of gas-electric cars in the United States in late 1999. Last week, Ford announced plans to produce hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Ford C-Max microvan by 2012. The Ford C-Max has much of the functionality of a minivan—including potential seating for seven—but is not as big as today’s American minivans and does not have sliding doors. Toyota last week also unveiled its Prius V hybrid wagon, which has more room than the traditional Prius, but seats five.

Rethinking the Minivan

Marchionne made a long-term commitment to minivan. “We’re not going to give up one inch of territory in terms of our domination of the segment,” he said. “But more importantly, you need to realize that we need to adapt to the changing condition of the market.” That translates to more versatility, higher fuel economy, and probably a smaller footprint.

While headlines about a Chrysler hybrid minivan are using 2013 as a release date, Marchionne’s exact comments were punctuated with “probably” and “hopefully.” He said the new minivan architecture “will probably be in the marketplace hopefully by 2013 or 2014.” Marchionne said that the company will “rethink” the minivan, and it might not look like what a minivan looks like today.

“We’re going to do all the right things technically. I know there was some rumors that we were going to announce hybrid stuff for this van,” Marchionne said. “We can do all these things. Assume that it will happen in due time, and that we’re not going to blow our trumpet and look for recognition before we’re ready to do them.”

Chrysler will use new in-house hybrid technology, not the so-called “two-mode hybrid” system co-developed with General Motors and BMW. Detroit News also reported that Marchionne will soon make an announcement with Lisa Jackson, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about funding for evaluating a new drivetrain technology. Considering the Obama Administration’s past support of plug-in technology, Chrysler’s new electric-drive system could be compatible with plug-in hybrids and full electric cars.

Ralph Gilles, head of the Dodge brand, also said a hybrid version of the Dodge Charger was in the works.

Update (1/20/11): Chrysler’s announcement with the E.P.A. was not about testing plug-in technology. Instead, it was about the evaluation of the E.P.A.’s patented hydraulic hybrid technology—the transfer of hydraulic fluid in high-pressure chambers—in minivans. The E.P.A. and Chrysler anticipate the use of a hydraulic hybrid system could improve the fuel efficiency of a minivan by as much as 35 percent.

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  • Shines

    Well they gotta say something since they aren’t producing anything as far as plug-ins and hybrbids go…

  • Dom

    According to this article on the same subject:

    They’ll be shipping minivans to Europe with diesel engines. Argh! Why in blazes can’t we buy these built-in-America diesel minivans???!!??? Ok, so it’s technically Canada, but it’s still this side of the pond! That would be a great vehicle, and much more fuel-efficient than their American lineup. I’m no fan of minivans (especially modern bloated ones), and have no interested in a hybrid one either, but a diesel one might could possibly change my mind. D’oh!

  • 9691

    They’ve been doing it for years. I saw one (Chrysler Caravan) last summer in Europe. Made in Austria, 4 cyl, turbo diesel (TDI) with a 5 speed manual tm. Runs like a horse. I had the exact same question then, that you are asking now. With Fiat owning Chrysler, at least there won’t be any shortage on impressive design in future cars. What concerns technology and reliability, I’m not a huge fan of their statistic, some say that Fiat is not the junk it used to be in the past, but from an engineering point of view are better than VW or Audi. Who knows, we’ll see.

  • Dom

    Yeah, I’ve heard of other models (Jeeps I think) that were built in North America with a diesel motor and shipped over to Europe. Very frustrating. Like I said, a European style minivan with a diesel and manual transmission would be something I’d drive. These gasoline automatic overblown “minivans” don’t interest me… thankfully my wife doesn’t want one either!

  • Nelson Lu

    I don’t know how well the implementation will be, but at least in theory, Chrysler’s picking the right markets: a 300 hybrid and a Town & Country hybrid will have no real current competitors for a while. (The only full-size hybrid sedans currently are luxury models — Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes, and the BMW and Mercedes aren’t even full hybrids.)

  • Pierre

    I think I read that Chrysler’s hybrid minivan do not need batteries. Sorry, no ‘gas-electric’ minivan.

  • Chip Daigle

    While I like the concept of Gas/Electric Minivans in the future, we are not set up for them right now because of the fact that we get over 75% of our Electricity from Dirty Coal because of a Backward policy towards Nuclear. Until we can get our power from cleaner sources: Nuclear, Clean Coal, Natural Gas (50% CO2 Reduction) having a PlugIN will not reduce CO2 emissions significantly. Obama and the Dems have totally ignored advances in reprocessing of Nuclear fuel rods. Funding for Cleaning up CO2 emissions with Algae is nothing compared to funding for Cellulosic Ethanol which has yet to produce a drop. Cleaning up Coal should be equally funded by the Dems and Obama. In the mean time until Clean Coal or Nuclear comes online, I suggest we follow the Bill Clinton model and temporarily convert the Coal plants over to Natural Gas. After we clean up our power then lets go to PlugIns.

  • Nelson Lu

    75% use of fossil fuels is better than 100% use of fossil fuels.

  • FamilyGuy

    I can elect to get either 50% or 100% of my electricity from a wind farm in New York. I have to pay extra to have clean electricity, but it’s an option. I have NSTAR as a utility provider.

    I was really hoping that the plug-in Ford C-Max would seat 7 and not just 5. Barring an outrageous price, it would have been an easy choice to be my next car. Now, in the next year or so, I will have decided between a plug-in C-Max seating 5 or a hybrid Prius wagon or actually seating seven in a C-Max using a full time ICE (whenever that comes out).

  • JamesDavis

    Chrysler, your unwillingness to keep your company in the loop of new technology and demands of your American customers has pushed your company to the edge of bankruptcy three times and you still haven’t learned. You have taken billions of dollars, several times, of American taxpayer clean energy dollars and you are still trying to push dirty fossil fuel vehicles on us. You are so underhanded that people hold their noses when they think about your company. If I had the power to do so, I would tire-n-feather you and run you out of America and GM should be close behind you. America is trying to break away from foreign oil that is creating a very high security stress level in America and all you and GM seem to want to do is keep pushing us backward to fossil fuels.

    There is no excuse why you and GM cannot use those billions of dollars the American taxpayers gave to you and convert your plants over to the mass production of electric vehicles. You are part of the problem why China is way ahead of America in clean energy and EV transportation. Get your head out of the tar sands and start producing electric cars so we can push foreign oil so far back in our history that our children will laugh about how silly we were to stay with such a dirty and dangerous product for so long.

  • JP

    Ford C Max DOES have sliding doors. Along the lines of the Mazda5 but more refined and seats 7.

  • Ehbg

    I wish someone would make a van that has longer doors for us really really tall drivers. I wanted to purchase either a CHRYSLER or VW van but couldn’t get in comfortably. If the design people can’t accomodate us >6’8″ drivers by lengthening the driver door maybe they could make the steering wheel push to the right & up to be out of our knees’ way upon entry. I want a TDI or BLUETEC diesel too. I don’t mind paying $8K extra for such a reliable diesel engine.

  • tapra1

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