Carmakers typically turn to electrification for increased fuel efficiency, but it can have other benefits as well.

In some cases, it may even help maximize interior space in vehicle where that is an important selling point.

Chrysler wants to offer all-wheel drive as an option for its next-generation Town & Country minivan, but there's a catch.

DON'T MISS: Chrysler Plug-In Hybrid Minivan Will Launch Late Next Year, Company Says (Oct 2014)

A conventional all-wheel drive system wouldn't leave room for the folding "Stow n' Go" seats that are one of the current Town & Country's main selling points.

So Chrysler may use a more compact electric all-wheel drive system instead.

According to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne, the company is investigating either ditching Stow n' Go or adding electric all-wheel drive.

2015 Chrysler Town & Country

2015 Chrysler Town & Country

'We're exploring both," Marchionne said after receiving an award from the SAE Foundation, according to industry trade journal Automotive News (subscription required).

Electric all-wheel drive--which uses an electric motor to power one axle without any mechanical connection to an internal-combustion engine--has been deployed on a handful of production models, including Toyota and Lexus hybrid crossovers.

But manufacturers have shown more interest in the concept lately.

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The Kia Trail'ster concept--a ruggedized version of the current Soul that debuted at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show--featured electric all-wheel drive.

A gasoline engine powered the front wheels while an electric motor powered the rear wheels. This is likely how a Chrysler minivan electric all-wheel drive system would be arranged as well.

Audi is also rumored to be working on an electric version of its trademark quattro system, which is tipped to debut on the next-generation A4.

2015 Chrysler Town & Country

2015 Chrysler Town & Country

Electric all-wheel drive could also easily be adapted from the plug-in hybrid powertrain Chrysler is expected to offer in the new Town & Country.

The minivan will be Chrysler's first production plug-in hybrid model, but perhaps not its last.

MORE: Famed Audi Quattro AWD System To Go Electric As e-Quattro

Marchionne said electrification is coming "whether you like it or not."

And, he said, Chrysler is mulling hybrid options for other vehicles--including the next generation of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The new Town & Country is expected to debut at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show in January, marking its first significant update since the 2008 model year.


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