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Published on January 12th, 2016 | by Kyle Field


Chrysler Brings A Plug-In Hybrid To A Key Market — The Minivan

January 12th, 2016 by  

Originally published on EV Obsession.


Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (blue) and Standard (red)

We had heard whispers and rumors of Chrysler bringing a plug-in hybrid minivan to the scene in late 2015, and the North American International Auto Show is about as close to late 2015 as it gets when it comes to the big auto shows. Better (a little) late than never… and Chrysler is on the scene with a new offering in this yet-to-be-tapped market for EVs.

The Pacifica plug-in hybrid was announced in Detroit yesterday as having segment-leading mileage ratings at 80 MPGe. Kicking that number up a notch is a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery that enables 30 miles of all-electric range (AER). Impressively, the battery is housed in an existing storage compartment so the vehicle gets an MPG bump without sacrificing interior space. Staying in line with Chrysler’s deep roots in minivans, the Pacifica hybrid plug is just in front of the driver-side door, making plugging in about as convenient as it gets.


Just as the Model X did for the SUV market, this new entry really hits a key segment that hadn’t seen any EV love in the US until now, which is all the more tragic considering how minivans typically suffer from poor fuel efficiency. While we struggle with the terrible rating system that is MPGe, the fact that the Pacifica gets 30 miles AER means most commutes or errands will be done on the battery without using any gas.

The fact that electricity is typically much cheaper to use as a fuel for driving means frugal families can take advantage of plugging in to save cash, which is one of those incentives to cut pollution that lasts the life of the vehicle. On top of that, as a plug-in hybrid (that Chrysler for some reason just calls a “hybrid”), this new Pacifica qualifies for the federal plug-in car rebate of $7500 and state rebates in some areas.

In addition to green cred, the new Pacifica Hybrid packs in tons of new infotainment features, comfort options, and active safety systems. Active safety features are especially exciting as they are often precursors to autopilot and autonomous driving suites. The Pacifica includes several advanced features:

  • ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, which uses ultrasonic sensors to guide the driver into parking spaces. This sounds a lot like the Summon feature of the Model S, which is exciting to see.
  • Adaptive Cruise Control, which maintains the distance between the vehicle and the one in front of it, and can bring the vehicle to a controlled stop if needed.
  • Forward Collision Warning-Plus will actually engage the brakes to alert the driver if an impact appears imminent, and assists with driver response in the event of an accident.
  • LaneSense Lane Departure Warning-Plus will deliver a torque input (haptic feedback) to alert and assist the driver that they might need to take action (starting with waking up!) to stay in the lane.


I am truly excited to see tech and electrification coming to Chrysler and, beyond that, to a segment that just hasn’t seen much electric love to date. Yes, the Nissan eNV200 exists, but it is only deployed in a few smaller markets. Look for the Pacifica Hybrid to hit showrooms in the US later this year.

Check out the highlights from the reveal at the NAIAS in the video below, check out some of the key engineering details in a second video further down, or dig into the full press release here for all the juicy tidbits.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Engineering video with Jessica LaFond talking about some of the neat features in the hybrid version. Hilariously, the video shows the cars driving around on the backlot at Universal Studios.

Images and Videos Credit: Chrysler

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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor. Tesla referral link: http://ts.la/kyle623

  • David Galvan

    This and the Outlander PHEV SUV are the vehicles I’m most interested in, and they are both coming out this year. Exciting for those of us who want to haul our families on long road trips, and still commute mostly-electric.

  • hybridbear

    Any specs on EV mode acceleration?

  • Jenny Sommer

    VW should pull a Routan on that one or just get a MEB based Sharan built before 2018.

    Note that there is also a 250HP V6 model available.

  • In an interview with Autoline Network, Chrysler revealed release of the hybrid version will be in the 4th quarter. McElroy tried to get pricing out of the FCA rep but just received a laugh in reply. If pricing starts in the low $40ks, availability is nationwide and not supply constrained, FCA will sell many.

    • I love that McElroy guy. 😀

      I hope Chrysler opens this one up. But am a bit cynical due to Sergio’s previous comments about EVs.

      • Well old Sergio may have seen the light as in a November 2015 conference call with The Detroit News and other media he is quoted as saying, “Most of the fleet” of Fiat Chrysler vehicles will be hybrids by the 2020-to-2025 time frame, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne. And Chrysler’s current vocabulary is hybrid = plugin hybrid. In the same Mcelroy interview, FCA says they want to stay away from the term “plug-in” to avoid confusing customers into thinking the vehicles must be plugged in. He says of the hybrid Pacifica, customers will get 28mpg, if they chose to plug in they can get 80…

        • He did make a visit to Tesla’s HQ at some point to chat with Sir Elon.

    • John Moore

      Starts in the low 40s? Sorry, I just had a little sticker shock, there. I thought maybe………. high 30s?

  • Jenny Sommer

    The eNV is available in Europe… not only in small markets.
    There is also the Kangoo MAX ZE in that segment.
    A van is missing. It is possible. Kreisel has retrofitted a Mercedes Sprinter.
    200miles range, starting at 73900€.

    A model range to choose from would be good. Take 50kmE+REX.

  • vensonata

    Notice the parallel? Mitsubishi plug in hybrid van about to arrive in U.S. in May. Thirty mile all electric range etc. I had my eye on that but now, depending on price and if it has AWD, I will definitely have at least a choice between two. If doesn’t have all wheel drive then it is out of the question. None of the listed models seem to show that spec. Anybody else spot it?

    • evfan

      Mitsu has AWD, Pacifica does not

    • Benjamin Nead

      Also, word just out is that the plug-in Mitsubishi Outlander headed here will not have a CHAdeMO plug, which is giving fits to many potential buyers.

      • vensonata

        Educate me. What does this imply?

      • Kyle Field

        CHAdeMO is not critical for PHEVs. In fact, I don’t know of one that has a DC Fast Charging port. They typically only have J1772 in the US.

        • kvleeuwen

          The European and Asian Outlander has Chademo. Useful for vehicle-to-home disaster recovery scenarios: a 30kVA gasoline generator on wheels. At least with a bidirectional DC charger that costs as much as the car 🙂

          • Kyle Field

            Good point. Honda has the Power Exporter…or whatever that was called that did CHAdeMO out to a home. I wonder if the same is possible with J1772 or other AC Level 2 standards?

          • BigWu

            A good question! The J1772 can suck down up to 19.2 kW, more than sufficient to power a large home with dual AC units blasting if it can run in reverse.

            As an added bonus, that’s less than 26 hp load on the engine/generator, a very efficient load for an ICE.

  • How much? When? Where? and How Many? are all key questions.

  • Freddy D

    Wow, this is a huge announcement that brings plug-in to a huge market category! And strategically, it really gives Chrysler an interesting proposition in a market virtually owned by Honda and Toyota. Price point will be very important. Much more than several $k uplift and its a niche proposition (or perhaps a compliance car with correspondingly low sales). Much less than that and they won’t be able keep them on the lot.

    On range: something just doesn’t seem right with the perception amongst us EV fans that 30 miles (or even 90) is enough range for virtually all driving. The beauty of this thing, being a PHEV, is that it doesn’t matter, (other than one has to pay for an expensive ICE, gearbox, AND battery). The reality is that the 90 mile pure EVs are proving to be a tiny niche market. Finding chargers away from home at the right location and the right time is a pain or impossible, even with all the best apps. (Speaking from experience as a very busy, time constrained person). Minivans are used heavily for regional trips as well as local. And work beautifully for long haul. This van will do a lot of miles on gasoline on weekend getaways and busy weekdays with multiple errands. Nonetheless it fills a huge gap. Now let’s look at remaining gaps in the rest of the top 10 selling cars in the US:
    CRV / RAV4 / Escape: Mitsubishi supposed to arrive late this year. Sorely need more entrants.
    F150 / Sierra / Chevy pickup: anyone?

    • Kyle Field

      Via Motors is working on plug in and hybrid trucks/SUVs. I haven’t heard much beyond that…

      • Benjamin Nead

        What’s the deal with Via Motors? They’ve been talking EV vans and pickups for years, but really don’t have anything out there. From what I understand, they’re pricey and you have to be a large quantity fleet buyer for them to even talk to you. The most recent thing I’ve saw with Bob Lutz was a clip on the TV news the other day from the Detroit Motor Show, where he’s waxing on about some limited edition Corvette he’s building with an even bigger gas-wasting motor than what Chevy offers. :-/

        • Kyle Field

          Man, that’s depressing. It would be great to see him finally pull his head out of his ….

        • John Moore

          There should be a carbon tax on his pontification. .

        • I think they just don’t see them as competitive enough for the personal transport market. And fleet sales are more efficient and more profitable. Just a guess.

      • Freddy D

        Good point on Via, who is aiming for the commercial market rather than mass (f150 sells something like 700,000 a year).

        And wrightspeed, aiming for heavy duty trucks.

        The CRV / Escape / explorer is sort of the center of the fairway for the US market right now (aside from pickup mentioned above ). That will be the class to watch.

    • John Moore

      One little quibble. Toyota and Honda don’t quite own this market. Counting Dodge and Chrysler minivans together, they outsell either Honda or Toyota (but not both companies combined). However, this has been trending very badly for Chrysler, and they lost a bunch of market share in 2015. They certainly do need something to help change the trend.

  • Adrian

    Excellent news! About time.

    The usual questions arise: Will they market it, how many will they build, and will dealers steer people away from it?

    Guess we’ll have to wait and see…

    • Kyle Field

      Exactly why we need to get the word out to people that it exists 🙂 If you build it, they will come (if they know about it).

    • JamesWimberley

      Do dealers steer customers away from PHEVs in the same way that they do with BEVs? The electric drive can be integrated in the dealer’s mindset and sales pitch as an additional feature, like A/C.

      • Kyle Field

        The Green Upsell 🙂

      • ROBwithaB

        THIS is the reason we all need to be happy about (plug in) hybrids.

        It’s a way to get massive adoption of electric vehicles, without needing to re-invent the entire distribution system.
        It frustrates me when Tesla fans make comments implying that hybrids are evil because they contain combustion engines.
        With that sort of attitude, they’re not helping Elon’s progress towards his stated goal….

        • John Moore

          I agree. The old adage about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good comes to mind. Look, we have got to get volume. We have to get the transition going. PHEVs will definitely help us on the journey to reaching the tipping point, where buying an ICE vehicle simply won’t make any sense. A good step toward reaching critical mass, IMO. So I’m all for PHEVs, and would be even if it were only for the public awareness factor.
          Now if I’m asked the same question in 3 years, I hope I’ll have a reason to give a different answer.
          At any rate, this is so exciting. The Bolt intro last week, PHEV minivans this week. We are picking up speed. I can’t wait for the day when we can look back and say “Remember when people were still buying cars with engines?”

    • My guess: 1) No, not really. 2) A quite limited #. 3) Yes.

  • BigWu

    Finally, a PHEV for the soccer mom!

    Hear that? Exactly! That’s the sound of millions of little children that will breathe easier as their moms “idle” in the school queues with their AC/heaters on but now without belching toxic smoke from their tailpipes!

    As an added bonus, with 89 MPGe OPEC is screwed (yay!)

    • Kyle Field

      Idling in school lines is no joke! It’s the worst part of my week but thankfully, I’m in an electric. This is a big win!

    • Benjamin Nead

      Now that my son is off to college and our house has gone back to more standard sized vehicles (one of them an EV,) we’re not in the minivan
      market any longer. But, yes, I would have given my eye’s teeth for
      a plug-in minivan (even a non-plug hybrid minivan) for some 18 years.
      That it took this long for something like this to appear is one of the great
      missed opportunities of the auto industry in recent memory.

      • Kyle Field

        Almost as big as Toyota not going electric…

        • ROBwithaB

          Ah, yes… dear old Toyota.
          Maybe we can, collectively, embarrass them into taking action?
          Maybe they’re in “Deep Stealth” mode?
          Maybe they’re just destined to be left behind….

          Always interesting to me to see how early movers in any industry can lose the plot within a few short years. Toyota, with the Prius, completely OWNED the EV market. They must have had over 50% market share at some point.
          And now they are almost irrelevant. Their sales are actually declining, even though the market continues to grow apace. How is it even possible to screw up so badly?

          Imagine, in the late 1990s or early 2000s that you just KNEW that mobile telephony was going to be HUGE. So you decided to sell everything you owned and bought shares in each of the emerging titans of the industry:
          Motorola, Nokia, and Ericsson.
          And then, once you’d lost a lot of your money as people migrated to smartphones, you shifted your investment to THAT new field. And put everything you had left into the market leader:

          Depending on how you timed these trades, you could have lost a fortune, by picking the right sector but the wrong players.
          Early movers often seem to get left behind. I have some theories as to why this would be. As a result I might even get out of Tesla once the hit the 500,000 production mark.

          • nakedChimp

            If you ever share this kind of insight – not for stocks, I don’t gamble anymore – I’d like to hear it.. even if it’s just abstract.

          • ROBwithaB

            No shortage of my insights here in the comments.
            Some might even complain that I’m TOO happy to share my insights…

          • “Always interesting to me to see how early movers in any industry can lose the plot within a few short years.”
            -Yes, exactly. I think this really is the thing that is making Toyota such a laggard. Have written about it before, but forget the title.

  • CU

    How large is the patent issues; is that a reason why some manufacturers are lagging?

    • Adrian

      Possibly, but the early work on single-gear hybrid transmissons with electric motors to vary the ratios are described in patents from the 60’s, all long since expired.

      Patent problems are more likely in the control strategies and the electronics. (I’m not a patent attorney though.)

      • Freddy D

        Thermal management, geometry optimization, software software more software, power modules, motors themselves – I don’t know what’s locked up by IP, but could be quite a bit. Would be interesting to see what Tesla opened up a while back

      • JamesWimberley

        The underlying processors are designed by ARM in Cambridge , England, which has a longstanding policy of open licensing to all comers. The low license fees (cents per chip) discourage competitors and attract customers. Of course these customers, who build SOCs round the ARM processors, can add their own IP. But it’s easy for a competitor to open up the box, see what’s been done round the transparent ARM core, and find another way without infringing the add-on IP. The rapid innovation depends on a quite low level of IP rents in the ecosystem.

    • Freddy D

      I don’t know the answer to your question, but you can be assured that GM, Toyota and Tesla, and maybe Nissan have some good intellectual property. Interestingly, unless GM has been relentless at continuation patents, the patents from the EV1 days have expired. Toyota has probably kept up at keeping Prius patents current. The pro-ICE rhetoric has been too strong for too long from the likes of Daimler, VW, fiat, ford, for there not to be IP (intellectual property) barriers, IMHO. Maybe Honda too.

  • ROBwithaB

    One of the things we’re likely to see, as part of the EV revolution, is much quicker turnaround times on new model development.
    Part of this simply has to do with Moore’s Law, in that more and more of the design process can now be done “in silico”, all the way through to body panel design, crash testing etc.
    But much of the speed will have to do with the inherent simplicity of the electric drivetrain. Once the manufacturers start shifting towards a standardised “skateboard” configuration, it becomes relatively easy to drop various shells on top of that.

    In the “bad old days” of ICE, there were large barriers to entry, and the complexity of the drivetrain translated into long development cycles.
    I expect to see a pace of innovation that was impossible even a few years ago. Meaning that the transition will probably happen much quicker than the incumbents can imagine.

    As Adam reportedly said to Eve: “Stand back! I don’t know how big this thing is gonna get…”

    • Good points. And I was super happy to see in the video that they redesigned this vehicle for the plug & battery from the ground up. Good on Chrysler.

    • mike_dyke

      Do you reckon we’re going to see the end of “new” models each year? i.e. just have one basic design and then tweak it throughout the year?

      • ROBwithaB

        It’s an interesting idea. Tesla seems to be doing quite well with that model.

        I always hated all the hype around new model years. Feels dishonest, corny and manipulative, especially if there really isn’t anything new, other than some minor styling changes.
        Goes hand in hand with planned obsolescence. One is physical, the other emotional. Either way, bad for the environment. It still requires a LOT of energy and materials to make a new car. Once we can reduce the fuel consumption footprint, it makes (environmental) sense to keep the same car for as long as possible. Like decades. But that’s obviously not very profitable for car companies…

        I think consumers are wising up to some of the underhand smoke and mirror tricks that the auto industry has been using for decades to induce people into replacing their cars every few years.

        • Kyle Field

          The design of the car is a key piece of the brand identity and shifting that each year would create a muddied perception of the brand and the model. I can see brands making iterative tweaks to the inside, to features – as Tesla is doing with the Model S but still see exterior refreshes every 3-6 years.

          • mike_dyke

            I think that’s correct as the major hardware really only needs to change every few years whereas software can be upgraded any time.

      • Freddy D

        Reply above was really to this post Mike, but it is germane to whole thread.

    • Freddy D

      This tug of war has been in place for decades. Toyota, Daimler, Honda, and others with a clean strategy of ICEs, perfected. Then slot them into the vehicles the market wants. Plus certain models that have been in production for decades with minor facelifts ( E class since 1960s, Camry, Tacoma, outback/legacy, golf, civic, suburban, f150, etc. ). Then others flailing around the periphery, trying anything to get a toehold with new body styles, but not succeeding. It will continue with EVs.

    • JamesWimberley

      Good. We are seeing this first with Tesla’s online software upgrades. Curiously, Detroit was ahead of its time with the annual model changes; but these were cosmetic tweaks, the engineering changed slowly.

  • ROBwithaB

    Good to see a manufacturer announcing a vehicle that’s basically almost ready to ship. Puts the others (VW?) on notice that you can’t just announce a whimsical concept at an auto show and hope that customers will wait patiently for you to deliver it in four years’ time.

    • Yes, would be nice if that would become the new default.

    • Freddy D

      Yep, age old marketing decisions. See it all the time in software – there’s even a name for it: vaporware. Whereas Apple has decided that it will be in the stores at announcement time.

      • Bjorn

        Except for the watch! 😉

        • Kyle Field

          But where’s the tv? 🙂

  • ROBwithaB

    So Chrysler HAS actually been working on something, all along. Who knew?
    Smart of them to enter the market with a minivan. Play to your strengths.
    The minivan market is ripe for electrification. Lots of short trips in traffic. This thing might actually fly.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Chrysler has been working on electrics for some time. They got close with a PHEV pickup (IIRC) but ran into problems with the battery they were using. I seem to remember the battery was overheating during rapid charging.

      • Adrian

        Until yesterday, they gave every indication they were only playing with electrification as a science project/marketing feelgood/delaying tactic, not something destined for production. So this is good.

        Hopefully Sergio won’t ask people to not buy it.

        • lol. last sentence gave me a big smile.

          • eveee

            The dominos are falling. Tesla give it a nudge, Bolt, Leaf, MB changes to more EVs, Chrysler, ….
            The power of me, too.
            What did Hitchhikers Guide Say? The most powerful force in the universe was “somebody else’s problem”. Just behind that might be “me,too”.

          • Frank

            Future EPA standards are higher than todays. This hybrid will be able to hit numbers. Hey , how about adding a level two charger, or at least the ability to cheaply add one, to new building code? My crystall ball says battery prices will drop over time shrinking the price premium for these.

          • ROBwithaB

            This is a good idea. It’s something that can be leveraged at municipal level, without having to negotiate the political logjam at state or federal level.
            As a property developer, I am familiar with zoning laws in a number of different places. It is almost universal to specify the number of parking places required for any particular land use.
            It would be pretty easy to mandate that all NEW buildings have a specific ratio of charging bays vs parking bays.
            And all older buildings need to be retrofitted within a certain number of years.

            Offering free charging to employees will soon be a very attractive perk that employers can offer to attract the best young minds. And soon afterwards it will become a necessity, IMHO.
            “What? You don’t have charging at work? Sorry, I’m not even going to consider this job.”

  • JamesWimberley

    ” …as a plug-in hybrid (that Chrysler for some reason just calls a “hybrid”)..” Actually this linguistic shift makes sense, as plug-in is now standard. Let’s start calling the old sort “plugless hybrids”.

    • ROBwithaB

      This makes sense.
      Somebody needs to send out a memo to all motoring journalists around the world.

    • Freddy D

      I think the sub-200 mile pure ev has just become relegated to the niche / compliance -car segment. It will all be 200mi EVs or plug in hybrid if they want real sales. Very cool transition in mindset.

    • evfan

      “plug-in is now standard” … this would be nice!

      From a consumer standpoint, there is a big difference between hybrid and PHEV.

      A hybrid can be used like a regular car, but PHEV is different.
      1) You need to plug it in, ALL THE TIME
      2) If you rent or live in a apartment/condo, plug may not be available

      • sault

        “1) You need to plug it in, ALL THE TIME”

        Not really. 16 kWh can get filled up off a wall socket in about 10 hours. And the benefit of PHEV is not having to plug in ALL THE TIMES! ;P

        “2) If you rent or live in a apartment/condo, plug may not be available”

        People interested in buying $40k+ minivans are probably not the apartment-dwelling types either.

        • Kyle Field

          Either way, if a phev is not plugged in, it operates like a normal hybrid so there should still be a benefit. The point about PHEVs being designed to be plugged in is key though and something buyers of “hybrids” may not be expecting.

        • evfan

          Sault – the way PHEV’s are priced, they do not make financial sense unless you plug them in ALL THE TIME.

          Admittedly, a small number of folks will buy PHEVs because they represent a good cause, but if we want plug ins to sell well then the economics matter a lot.

          Regarding your “apartment dwelling type” comment. You should try to get out more. In Silicon valley there million dollar condo’s without garages, with very expensive cars parked outside.

          • Oollyoumn

            Some people may buy a PHEV just for the HOV sticker and never plug them in, making them the same as a traditional hybrid. There is no requirement to ever plug in a PHEV.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Fine by me. Still pushes the market in the right direction.

          • ROBwithaB

            Yup. And within a year or two, a very compelling second-hand car for someone who CAN take advantage of the obvious economic benefits.

          • Kyle Field

            No more HOV stickers in Cali for PHEVs…which is good and bad.

          • Adrian

            With $10k off your taxes in California, this one could make sense without plugging in. Though plugging it in would make it even better.

          • evfan

            LOL … time will tell. Let’s revisit this when the model gets to market. I guess will be stickered with a huge premium, much over $10k.

          • sault

            Sure, but exceptions don’t prove the rule.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Frequently they have covered parking with lights. That means those parking spots could easily be modified for 120 V charging overnight.

          • ROBwithaB

            Even if it is never plugged in, a PHEV can still function as an old fashioned plugless hybrid, taking full advantage of regenerative braking, which is where the big efficiency improvements are realised.
            Three other things to consider:
            1) “Home” is only half the day. Many people will be able to charge at work, at the company’s expense. This makes it MUCH more attractive to own a proper hybrid. (With a plug).
            2) People move. Even though you may live in an apartment sans garage now, you might move in future to somewhere that charging IS possible, in which case the vehicle suddenly becomes a lot more useful and economical.
            3) Cars move too. Even though the CURRENT owner might not be able to charge the vehicle from the mains, the mere fact that the possibility exists makes it very attractive to someone else, and is likely to increase the resale value.

            Plug-in hybrids are going to get a HUGE slice of the market in the next few years (IMHO), until improvements in battery tech and charging infrastructure allow for affordable and seamless long-distance travel with BEVs.

          • ROBwithaB

            I don’t think the economics matter very much to those living in million dollar condos in Silicon Valley.

          • evfan

            What an outrageous statement! What basis do you have for such a broad claim? PS: bias does not count.

          • ROBwithaB

            You said: ” In Silicon valley there million dollar condo’s without garages, with very expensive cars parked outside”

            This leads me to surmise that people living in million dollar condos are prepared to buy expensive cars. i.e. the strict economics of car ownership don’t matter very much to them, especially if they’re happy to leave them outside. (Exposed to the elements, the vagaries of bad drivers and the unresolved biases of resentful poor people with Molotov cocktails in hand.)

            Basically: What HE said.
            Bit of a tautology, really, but there you go…

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you’re living in a million dollar condo and driving a $100k EV then you can afford to have a charging outlet installed.

          • Kyle Field

            I don’t think people living in million dollar condos are buying minivans…Model X or S, sure…but c’mon 😀 Mercedes R-Class?

      • eveee

        This is wrong. PHEV, like any EV or HEV, should be designed to never completely discharge the battery. If the battery requires some juice, just to maintain a low charge, the regen or engine should kick in to maintain it. Thats not to say all mfrs would design it properly, but it really makes sense. There is no sense in having an ICE to drag along if it doesn’t at least do that. In that sense, all PHEV are also HEV. Some allow to choose between modes.



        The Chevy Voit is a series hybrid, so the engine charges the batteries.


        Here is a description of how the Volt works, never allowing the battery to be fully discharged.


        • evfan

          What is wrong? Your point is not clear.

          • eveee

            Sorry. This statement.

            “) You need to plug it in, ALL THE TIME”

            I mean you don’t have to plug in a PHEV. The will run off gas automatically if you forget to plug in.

          • evfan

            I think I could have used better language.

            It is possible to use PHEV on gas only, but it makes no sense to pay the extra money for a PHEV if you do not plug in it in a lot.

            Using a PHEV as a hybrid is not very efficient, because you are burning gasoline to transport a heavy battery. One example, Volt gets 42mpg on gasoline, but the Malibu hybrid, which is a bigger vehicle gets 50mpg.

            The only way to get Volt to beat Malibu is to plug it in a lot.

          • eveee

            Yes. Sorry if I came across too critical.

            Its my view that while weight is important for city mileage, hybrids improve that situation so much that the effect of the weight of extra batteries is not that bad. What they cannot do is improve highway mileage. Thats controlled by aerodynamics and is relatively independent of weight.

            I think that series hybrids like the Volt are less efficient because of the series approach. The Prius is more efficient with a parallel approach. By that I mean the gas derived energy goes directly to the wheels in the parallel approach, rather than through a generator, a battery, and then an electric motor with losses all the way through. The series approach uses a reduction gearing, and the parallel uses a similar planetary gearbox.

            From a weight perspective, its a bit hard to compare directly since the cars are not the same size, but the Prius is 3,072 lbs, with a tiny battery that weighs 110 lbs. The 2016 Volt weighs 3,543 lbs and the battery weighs 423 lbs. So the increased weight is 313 lbs. I don’t think that accounts fully for the difference in city mileage. There is also a difference in performance.

            A better comparison might be Prius PHEV vs HEV. The PHEV actually gets 1mpg better on the highway. 🙂

            The PHEV was 123 lbs heavier,


            but the electric range was low, only 11 miles.


          • evfan

            You are incorrect here: “Volt are less efficient because of the series approach.”

            Volt 1.0 was only parallel hybrid only some of the time
            Volt 2.0 is always a parallel hybrid

            The Volt and Malibu use exactly the same hybrid transmission, and differ mechanically in that Volt has smaller engine, larger battery

          • eveee

            I dunno.

            It gets complicated. Terminology: Lets use engine for gas engine and motor for electric motor. Serial hybrid is supposed to go from engine to wheels. According to this report about the Gen 1 Volt, the engine powers the wheels directly over 70 mph. Except it doesn’t exactly. The Volt uses a planetary gearbox as an infinite ratio gearing or a mixer between two power sources with an output to the wheels.

            “There are two electric motors—a 149 horsepower primary drive motor and a 74-hp motor/generator—and a 1.4-liter internal combustion (ICE) gas engine. All three elements are connected via a planetary gearset.

            Planetary gearsets—which are common elements of automatic transmissions—are ingenious devices that have three meshed elements: A sun gear in the middle, a ring gear with internal teeth and smaller planet gears between the two which are joined together by a carrier. Alternating the speed and direction of the various elements changes the ratio between the inputs and outputs.

            In the case of the Volt, the main output is the driven front wheels, which are connected to the planet carrier. The large drive motor is affixed directly to the sun gear. The ring gear is where things get interesting.

            One clutch connects the ring gear to the transmission case and when engaged, it stops the ring gear from rotating. A second clutch joins the smaller motor/generator to the ring gear. A third clutch combines the engine crankshaft to the motor/generator.”

            So the Volt never couples the engine to the wheels without going through the motor generator. Its the only way the engine adds motive power. At least thats how I read it.

            planetary gear> wheels


            battery> drive motor> sun gear


            Engine > clutch > motorgen > clutch> ring gear

            case > clutch >…………………^

            I hope that diagram doesn’t get messed up.

            Clear as mud? Join the club. LOL.

            “As vehicle speeds increase to about 70 mph, the main electric motor starts to fall out of its most efficient operating range so then two things happen: The ring-gear clutch opens, and the motor/generator clutch connects the second motor to the ring gear. Then both motors power the car.

            When the battery is depleted, the operation slightly shifts. Again at low speeds, the ring gear is locked in place via its clutch but now the clutch between the engine and the motor/generator closes, which spins the generator to supply the electricity. This setup is known as a series hybrid because the gas engine does not directly power the wheels.

            But the Volt isn’t always a series hybrid. Once the speed climbs to about 70 mph, the motor/generator again couples to the ring gear but now—in “charge-sustaining” mode—the smaller electric motor is also affixed to the running gas engine. In effect, the gas engine supplies power directly to the transmission, which is just like a parallel hybrid.

            This last mode has caused some consternation because over the Volt’s development GM has stated that the gas engine never directly powers the car. While that’s not entirely true, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is that the car can’t move solely on the gas engine—if the main electric motor quits, the car will be stranded. Secondly, the engine routes its power through the motor/generator.”

            I don’t see the gas engine ever directly mechanically coupled to the wheels.

          • evfan

            “I don’t see the gas engine ever directly mechanically coupled to the wheels.” – keep on looking, you will see it sometime. The Prius and Volt 2 are always connected. Volt 1 only while driving at high speed. And that is the most efficient way for them to operate.

            And by the way, the conversation drifted way of point, namely that a PHEV is more efficient than HEV only if you plug it in. And to recover the additional investment, you have to plug it in a lot.

          • ROBwithaB

            What are the big additional costs for a plug-in?

            What prospect is there for these costs to decline as volume (or standardisation) increases?

          • eveee

            You mean power by way of an electricity to an EV is more efficient than gasoline and an ICE engine, right?
            I was comparing the Prius parallel hybrid with the Volt in gas mode. Volt mpg is much lower. Why? Thats the issue. Even the Prius PHEV has higher mpg than the Volt. Its certain that GMs Voltec is not the same as the Prius drivetrain.

          • ROBwithaB

            I’m now thoroughly confused.
            Could someone refer me to a video explaining how this all works?

          • eveee

            I wish I could. I am just as confused. Let me explain it this way. The traditional view of a series hybrid is like this.


            Thing is, the Volt uses a planetary gear set to mix different sources together.
            The Prius does, also.

            Let me call it a mixer. The series diagram doesn’t contain a mixer. Further complicating things, even GM says the engine never connects directly to the wheels. What does that mean? I mean there is a gearbox and clutch, but so what? We still say the engine connects directly mechanically to the wheels in an ICE car. What I am trying to figure out is whether the Volt does that, or instead the engine drives a generator , then that electrically drives a motor, and the motor drives the wheels.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        “From a consumer standpoint, there is a big difference between hybrid and PHEV.”
        Absolutely! 50% of USA drivers travel less than 26 miles a day. A hybrid will give those folks mildly better mileage. A PHEV will have them driving gas free a lot of the time. Charging at home a problem? What a nut. How about not having to stop at the gas station on cold winter days?
        PHEVs are wwaaaayyy superior to hybrids.
        No, of course they’re not for everybody.
        Still wwaaaayyy better.

    • eveee

      Really. All hybrids should be plug ins. What is the problem. Add a charger. And that would eliminate the premium for that with volume and standardization. You listening Toyota?

    • Matt

      Notice that the red one at the big show, does not have a plug port. Oh dear!

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