Chrysler’s deployment of three plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District marks the start of a “vital second phase” of the automaker’s PHEV development efforts, as 25 Town & Country minivans have now been placed, as well as 140 Ram 1500 pickups.
The PHEV Town & Country vans feature a driveline with an E85-compatible, 3.6-liter Pentastar engine and a 12.1-kilowatt-hour, liquid-cooled, Electrovaya SuperPolymer brand lithium-ion battery affording a total output of 290 horsepower and a total range of 700 miles.
The vehicles, developed in partnership with U.S. Department of Energy, are being used to evaluate city drive cycles, thermal and charging performance, fuel economy and real-world performance, Chrysler says, stating that the data-collection phase of the PHEV minivan project “begins in earnest” with the SMUD deployment.
“The focus now shifts from engineering design and development of this unique technology, to real-world testing and evaluation,” Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of Chrysler Group’s advanced hybrid vehicle project, said in a release.
The vehicles will be subjected to “temperature extremes and variations of drive cycles,” Bazzi said.
PHEV Town & Country minivans have been placed in Yuma, Ariz., in North Carolina and in Michigan, and two additional units have been retained by Chrysler engineers. One will be subject to a short-duration test by Argonne National Laboratory.
The “resulting data will shed light on customer acceptance of the technology and its impact on the grid,” Chrysler said.
The two-year project stems from Chrysler Group’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. DoE has invested $10 million to further the research.
Chrysler says it “dominates the minivan market, selling 13.4 million units globally since inventing the segment in 1983.”
Chrysler also recently re-entered the natural gas vehicles business, announcing the Ram 2500 HD CNG, available from July as a Crew Cab 4×4 model with 169-inch wheelbase, at the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis in March.
“This is not a conversion,” said Chrysler Ram president Fred Diaz.
CNG vehicles from Ford and GM are delivered from the factory to aftermarket firms but the Ram CNG will be built on the production line in Saltillo, Mexico, by Chrysler itself, Diaz said – “factory-built in North America for North America.”
The Ram CNG was engineered in collaboration with Chrysler’s major investor Fiat, a large-scale supplier of NGVs in Europe.
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