Chrysler last week revealed the completely new sixth-generation version of its minivans—including, at long last, the first full-hybrid minivan for the U.S. market.
That model, to be called the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, is slated to go on sale around September 2016.
And while it’s only badged a hybrid, the charging port just ahead of the driver’s door hints that it's a lot more than that (yes, blame the marketers for the badging): It’s a plug-in hybrid good for 30 miles of all-electric driving and a projected EPA 80 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe).
Against key rivals like the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest, and Kia Sedona, Chrysler will have a special advantage for the time being with this 50-state plug-in hybrid minivan—in a segment that Toyota has up until now shied away from with the Sienna, citing a lack of demand for hybrid minivans.
At the Detroit Auto Show we pressed Mike Duhaime, Chrysler’s global director for electrification, for more details on this all-new, 260-hp hybrid system—and what makes it different.
Built for daily pure-electric driving
Perhaps what most distinguishes this system, versus other plug-in hybrids, is that it can run the Pacifica Hybrid in pure-electric mode all the way up to 120 mph, if you accelerate gradually enough. And on a plug-in charge, it stays all-electric almost to full throttle.
“Over almost all driving conditions it’ll run all-electric,” said Duhaime.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica HybridEnlarge Photo
Duhaime looks to the Prius Plug-In as the kind of plug-in they didn’t want to build. Instead his team, out of Auburn Hills, Michigan, set out two and a half years ago to build a plug-in hybrid system that could have a wide all-electric range and perform confidently with the Pacifica’s seating capacity of up to eight.
The team settled on 16 kWh for the battery and 30 miles as the driving range because, according to Duhaime, it’s a packaging and intended-use sweet spot.
“We looked at the kind of consumer for this type of vehicle, and at the average round-trip commute for this type of vehicle—about 29 miles,” he said. “And then from there we sized the battery, and with the efficiencies of the electric motor and usable capacity it works out to be 16 kWh.”
That’s also a size that fits neatly into the Stow ‘n’ Go second-row seating tubs for the vehicle. In the Hybrid, the seats no longer fold into the floor, but all the rest of the van’s cargo versatility is intact.
Great minivan packaging mostly unchanged
The battery pack itself—likely from LG Chem, but not officially confirmed—uses pouch cells and is liquid-cooled. “We have to cool them when we’re charging, and we found that’s very hard to do with the exterior variance,” said Duhaime.
It charges in about two hours on 240V with the 6.6-kW onboard unit, or in 12 to 14 hours on 110V, and Chrysler decided that fast-charging wasn’t going to be utilized much by buyers, who are expected to merely charge overnight at home.