By on January 18, 2016


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.

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20 Comments on “FCA Hybrid Chief: Pacifica Will Be Largest Hybrid Vehicle...”

  • avatar

    “The old system used a complex set of fixed gears to drive two electric motors.” One would have thought that electric motors would drive through gears, the opposite of this. Why would anyone want to “drive” two electric motors? If this were the case, throw the two motors away and drive nothing. If this really means when the motors are reversed in generator mode then it should say so.

    “but wouldn’t say how it could be adapted for all-wheel drive.” Simple, get ZF to supply the bit with a right angle gear drive output that bolts onto the transmission they currently sell to Acura for the TLX SH-AWD.

    • 0 avatar

      If you have 15 minutes, this YouTube video explains how the three-leg E-CVT in the Prius works:

      Mechanically, it’s astoundingly simple. It’s made possible with reversible electric motors and computerized controls.

      If they’re using two electric motors and a planetary gear set, Chrysler almost has to be doing something similar. Doing anything else would be creating unnecessary mechanical complexity.

      • 0 avatar

        The 2-mode transmission that’s being discussed here which was used in Chrysler/GM/ Daimler trucks is substantially different from the Prius design and actually has 4 fixed gear ratios as well as a CVT function …really quite fascinating and complex.

  • avatar

    I feel like Chrysler and Hyundai have heard my hateful rants.


    • 0 avatar

      A plugin minivan.might be the right product for me at the right time.

      I’m concerned about Chrysler reliability, especially in the first year of a new technology (for them), though. I’d like to take my kid to college with the next minivan I buy.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Wonder if the electric(EV) mode is a true EV mode like you get with the Volt or if you have to baby it to keep the ICE from kicking on. It will also be interesting to see what the range is in EV mode.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’ll be interested to see the price. If it’s $50k+, that’ll be a fail, even though I want such a scheme to succeed.

    Minivan MPGs haven’t improved since they were invented in the early 1980s, although performance and capabilities certainly have.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      An outgoing T&C Touring stickers for $32K, and there will be a Pacifica Touring Hybrid with cloth seats, figure that cheaper hybrid will be somewhere south of $40K. The Limited Platinum Hybrid will likely be in up in Highlander Limited Hybrid territory.

      This van is very interesting and my minivan commute is 30 miles, but I’d worry about being a beta tester for FCA. They’re not exactly known for reliability nor hybrids.

  • avatar

    Could have called this Spinosaurus, the largest amphibious dinosaur.

    Why FCA wanna spend R&D on another minivan? Old people with money don’t need one and young people with kids & money don’t buy domestic.

    • 0 avatar

      That ain’t changing without the right product.

      This thing could be the right product.

      Well see, though. The C-Max should have been a winner, except that the performance didn’t match expectations. The same thing could happen with the Pacifica.

      • 0 avatar

        Yup, it could be the right product for Fiatsler to enter the hybrids segment with. They tried diesel in JGC and RAM and those are not selling in numbers that would shout “success!”

        I really see this entry in the Hybrids campaign (the new Pacifica) as being aimed squarely at current Prius owners who want a larger vehicle to step up to.

        And many young families now driving a Prius are or will be growing and will need a larger vehicle than the Prius in the future, and can now do so without leaving the Hybrid fold. The price of gas will go up, maybe sooner rather than later in case of another war in the Middle East, like between Iran and Saudi Arabia et al.

        I also would expect a number of old people, with money, to spring for one (new Pacifica) the way they sprung for minivans to go traveling in. Something about old folks and minivans at hotels/motels around sleepy time. They’re everywhere. They’re everywhere.

        The “Chrysler” reliability-issue historical track record will still weigh heavily on a buyer’s mind, although enormous improvements have been made since the death of Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/RAM and subsequent rising from the dead.

      • 0 avatar

        The only reason the C-Max’s performance didn’t match expectations is that Ford lied about the MPG, using the numbers from the more aerodynamic Fusion. If Ford would have posted accurate numbers, the C-Max would have found its audience, and all expectations would be met. My lifetime average MPG is 44, so it is higher than the current MPG ratings.

        Regarding the hybrid minivans. There are rumors that Honda has been working on a hybrid Odyssey. Toyota could come out with a hybrid minivan anytime it wants since it has been making and selling them in Japan for a decade. Apparently the JDM hybrid minivans are not big sellers due to cost.

        One interesting trend to watch will be to see what China is doing in the field of electric cars. China’s pollution is so bad that it’s not hard to imagine that in some cities there will be a mandate that all vehicles be electric. If that happens, experience curve effects will kick in, and it won’t be long before the Chinese technology beats everybody else.

        It’s going to be an interesting decade. 10 years from now, self-driving cars might be common, and we’ll see the dawn of smart roads – maybe even roads that charge the car, things that seemed pie-in-the-sky when Popular Science was writing about them 20 years ago.

  • avatar

    The 2009 Durango/Aspen hybrid system did not use a fixed geartrain. It used multiple planetary gearsets along with two AC motors within the transmission assembly. The rear motor was used for propulsion and regenerative braking. The front motor was used for engine starting and for drive ratio control. The front motor was able to continuously vary the ratio through a planetary gearset by varying the speed of one of the elements in the planetary gearset. Instead of a conventional planetary gearset relationship in which one element is driven, one element is held and the remaining element is the output, the electric motor varied the speed and direction of the “held” element to continuously vary the ratio. Note that the GM Hybrid trucks used essentially the same transmission.

    • 0 avatar

      “Note that the GM Hybrid trucks used essentially the same transmission.”

      I know they did but I do not know anyone who actually bought one. It would be interesting to learn how many of these jewels are actually still on the road because they didn’t sell well.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, through clever manipulation of the clutches and planetary sets, it could function like an e-cvt (think Prius) or with 4 fixed ratios (think regular automatic) when the torque demands were high, such as when towing. That’s why they called it a “2-mode hybrid”

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    A hybrid powertrain for a minivan could be interesting. I’ll probably be looking to replace my Odyssey in a couple of years, it will be interesting to follow this vehicle and see how it performs.

    • 0 avatar

      If you had a good experience with your Odyssey, you can’t go wrong buying another one. But the AWD Sienna is also an outstanding choice.

      My daughter drives an Odyssey and my daughter-in-law drives an AWD Sienna. Both are repeat buyers because of their excellent ownership experience over >150K miles each.

  • avatar

    FCA has a guy who is “Chief” of one car?

  • avatar

    This is so FCA… “IT’S THE BIGGEST!”

    I still want to know whether forgoing Stow ‘N’ Go in favor of the battery means the second row seats can actually be comfortable.

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