Wednesday, November 10, 1999
1000 Chrysler Drive
Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2766 (USA)
Auburn Hills, Mich. -- DaimlerChrysler is preparing to offer a hybrid vehicle that customers want - a high performance sport utility vehicle with improved fuel economy and lower emissions - at an affordable cost.
There's one catch: The company is waiting on the U.S. Congress to pass a package of $3,000 in tax incentives that would make the hybrid SUV competitive costwise with its conventional gas-powered counterparts.
The gas-electric hybrid Dodge Durango SUV, with patented through-the-road powertrain technology, gives consumers the option of an environmentally-friendly vehicle that continues to provide the performance, size and utility U.S. customers want.
"You can get V-8 power out of a V-6 and make fewer stops at the gas station," said Bernard Robertson, DaimlerChrysler Senior Vice President, Engineering Technologies. "It's exactly what people want - to be able to have a positive impact on the environment without having to pay for it. The added irony is that this is done in a sport utility vehicle."
The Dodge Durango hybrid is really the concept vehicle Chrysler Citadel powertrain philosophy adapted to an SUV.
The hybrid Durango combines two separate propulsion systems: a 3.9-liter, V-6 engine with automatic transmission that powers the rear wheels, and a three-phase, AC induction electric motor that drives the front wheels. The electric motor assists the gasoline engine during acceleration, and recaptures energy normally lost during deceleration.
The combination provides the power, acceleration and performance of a conventional V-8 engine. In fact, it is quicker than a 5.9-liter V-8-powered Durango from 0-60 miles per hour.
The hybrid powertrain yields a 20 percent increase in fuel economy, achieving 18.6 miles per gallon combined city/highway, compared with 15.5 miles per gallon for the conventional V-8 Durango. The application of fuel-saving hybrid technology in a popular sport utility vehicle results in greater overall savings in fuel consumption than the same technology applied to a smaller passenger car.
"If every SUV sold in this country got that kind of improved fuel economy with a hybrid powertrain, we would save 142 million gallons of gas a year," Robertson said.
In addition, the improved fuel economy results in reduced emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is produced in the combustion of fossil fuels.
Passengers also enjoy a quieter, smoother ride, with no sacrifices in comfort or equipment options, although trailer tow capability is reduced.
The gains in fuel efficiency result in part from the downsizing of components in the hybrid vehicle. A smaller engine can be used, permitting use of smaller related components, including catalytic converter, fan and fan clutch, radiator, and drive shaft. The improved fuel economy, in turn, permits use of a smaller fuel tank (20 gallons vs. 25 gallons).
The Durango hybrid builds on DaimlerChrysler's research and development in earlier projects, including the Dodge Intrepid ESX series hybrid, which includes an aluminum body to reduce weight, the Dodge Intrepid ESX2 mybrid (mild hybrid), and the Chrysler Citadel, the concept vehicle which was the first to implement DaimlerChrysler's patented through-the- road technology.
With the performance provided by the gas-electric hybrid, the Durango can be adapted for the U.S. and European markets to meet consumers' differing demands for fuel economy, lower emissions and performance.
While the Durango has the potential to become a popular, fuel efficient and environmentally friendly SUV, several challenges remain.
Improved battery technology is needed. The current version of the Durango uses lead-acid batteries, which would be unsuitable for a production vehicle. DaimlerChrysler is working with a major battery manufacturer to develop a lithium-ion battery for the vehicle. Improved batteries would lower the cost of the vehicle and extend its range.
However, it is crucial that tax incentives currently being considered by the U.S. Congress also be put in place. These incentives - up to $2,000 for use of a vehicle with a non-engine power source and up to $1,000 per vehicle with regenerative braking - would make the hybrid Durango competitive costwise with the conventional gas-powered Durango.
"Consumers are in love with the size, safety, comfort
and versatility of the sport utility vehicle. To offer them an
affordable SUV that is also more fuel efficient and lower in emissions
would have a major impact on our national oil consumption and
greenhouse gas emissions," said Robertson.