Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ global hybrid chief said that the newly announced Chrysler Pacifica minivan will be the largest vehicle for FCA’s new hybrid powertrain and that the gasoline and battery combo will be scalable to smaller cars.
“This’ll be the largest footprint — in the Pacifica,” Michael Duhaime told us last week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “As we get into the smaller vehicles, basically what we’ll do is put smaller electric motors. The power electronics is part of the transmission … all that stays consistent. We’ll just go with smaller motors, and then the final drive will change with the different vehicles.”
So … Jeep Cherokee Hybrid?
Moving the 3.6-liter, Pentastar V-6 to an Atkinson-style cycle wasn’t a challenge, Duhaime said. The newly revised engine could easily add late intake valve closing. Additionally, balanced left and right cylinder banks meant engineers could increase the engine’s compression ratio up to 12.5:1, he added.
“Those different design attributes can certainly work with different four-cylinder engines as well,” Duhaime said. “As long as we start with the largest (engine) we could certainly go down to a smaller engine and optimize that.”
Duhaime, along with Electrified Drive Unit Chief Engineer Scott Miller and Design Engineer Dumitru Puiu, patented the electric drivetrain on the Pacifica last November.
The system sounds similar to the old two-mode hybrid system found on the old Dodge Durango Hybrid and Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, but Duhaime said there are key differences.
The old system used a complex set of fixed gears to drive two electric motors. The current version still drives two electric motors, both of which can deliver torque to the wheels under specific circumstances, according to the patent. But this newer system uses planetary gears to increase variability and efficiency on the hybrid’s three series drive modes. The minivan can also drive in all-electric and all-gasoline modes.
The Pacifica’s hybrid system is also front-wheel drive. The Two-Mode system was never used on a front-wheel drive production vehicle.
Duhaime said the compact engine, hybrid system and nine-speed transmission unit could be used in other front-wheel-drive-biased cars, but wouldn’t say how it could be adapted for all-wheel drive.
The Pacifica will be built on an all-new platform for FCA that could eventually underpin a wide ranging number of cars — including a crossover or full-size sedan.