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Chrysler deploying plug-in hybrid minivans in Yuma AZ, and other cities around the country

The deployment of Chrysler plug-in hybrid Town & Country minivans is part of a larger project deploying not only the PHEV minivans, but PHEV Ram 1500 pickups, in cities around the country, to collect usage data for further product development.

You don't hear much about Chrysler's electric or plug-in hybrid programs, and some of the company's plans were a casualty with the Fiat merger. That hasn't stopped the Chrysler from working on several plug-in hybrid vehicle designs, and recently begin supplying plug-in hybrid RAM trucks and Town & Country minivans to pilot projects around the country. Over the last two weeks Chrysler has announced three deployments of plug-in hybrid Town and Country minivans in three cities, the most recent being a fleet of 3 minivans in Yuma Arizona.

The company is deploying 25 plug-in hybrid Town & Country minivans as part of a larger scale demonstration project that includes, not only the minivans, but plug-in hybrid Ram pickup trucks. The deployments include three PHEV minivans to the City of Yuma, Ariz, eight PHEV minivans for Duke Energy in Charlotte, NC, four PHEV minivans for the city of Auburn Hills, MI, ten Ram 1500 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) pickup trucks to DTE Energy of Detroit, another five to NV Energy in Nevada, another five to CenterPoint Energy’s electric utility in Houston, and other deployments around the country. The nationwide demonstration fleet includes at least 140 vehicles in total, being deployed in a variety of environments, in cooperation with the Dept of Energy to study customer usage, drive cycles, charging, thermal management, fuel economy, emissions and impact on regional electric grids. Funding in part comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 through the Dept of Energy's Transportation Electrification Initiative.

The Town & Country PHEV minivan has a 3.6L PentaStar engine with E85 Flex Fuel capable that provides, along with the electric motor, up to 290 horsepower. The battery pack is a 12.1 kilowatt hour Li-Ion liquid cooled battery, that provides an all-electric range in city driving of 22 miles. Total driving range is 700 miles. Because of the 6 kilowatt charger, and relatively small battery pack, recharging time is 2-4 hours.

“This Town & Country minivan is the only minivan to boast a plug-in hybrid powertrain in combination with flex fuel capability,” says Abdullah A. Bazzi, Senior Manager of Electrified Power Train Programs for Chrysler Group.

The PHEV plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) pickup trucks has a similar electrical drive train, and is coupled with a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine and a two-mode hybrid transmission. That engine is equipped with Fuel Saver technology to, during cruising on the highway, shut off four of the cylinders to save on fuel. For on-the-job electrical power tools, a 240 volt/30 amp four-prong outlet and 120volt/20amp duplex outlet power strip is located in the rear box. The truck can also send power into the grid in what's called a “reverse power flow” of up to 6.6kW.

The deployment in Yuma, AZ, was selected for the extreme high ambient temperatures where 104 degrees are not uncommon during June, July and August.

The deployment with CenterPoint Energy in Houston was selected for that areas hot weather, and that the area offers a combination of suburban and rural driving that is ideal as a test cycle for these vehicles. “We continue to develop expertise in integrating plug-in electric vehicles into the electric grid,” said Debbie Korenek, vice president of Marketing and Sales for CenterPoint Energy. “We have worked with the automotive industry for the last five years and this demonstration project continues that effort by providing real world data on the amount of energy used, potential emissions reductions, and impacts to the utility distribution system. The knowledge gained from this project will also provide a better understanding of how to promote the more efficient use of household electricity as a transportation fuel."

The deployment with NV Energy in Nevada was selected for a wide range of temperatures, the combination of suburban and rural driving, and elevation changes that abound in Las Vegas and beyond. “NV Energy is working closely with municipalities throughout the state to develop the policies and infrastructure necessary to make Nevada electric-vehicle ready,” said Michael Yackira, NV Energy President and Chief Executive Officer. “NV Energy is already using a number of electric vehicles in our own fleet and we look forward to sharing the benefits of this technology with our customers.”


Kurt Larsen (not verified)    April 24, 2012 - 12:51AM

I have been a loyal Town & Country owner for 10+ years. I currently own two, years 2005 & 2002. As someone that lives life with a disability, I am hopeful that this new Chrysler plug-in hybrid Town & Country will be capable of conversion for use by wheelchair users--please, sign me up!

Anonymous (not verified)    May 26, 2012 - 7:00AM

This van would be perfect for us. Our commutes are 3-5 miles and involve waiting in line to pick up our children. These driving habits give us really poor mileage, but we need the van to carry items on long trips. The sliding doors that vans provide are beneficial as the children enter and exit, especially in parking lots and garages.