For anybody who has more than two kids, a minivan is the perfect vehicle. Never mind that most people don’t choose them anymore, they are simply perfect for the job of hauling large quantities of people and things from place to place. About the only drawback is fuel economy. While they’re still better than a full-sized SUV, and even most crossovers, city fuel economy in the teens just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Which is why we’re excited about the plug-in hybrid prototype Town & Country minivans that Chrysler recently delivered to Duke Energy. These are test vehicles, proof-of-concept, that Duke will drive for the next two years to test real-world durability, range, economy, and charging performance. The eight vehicles delivered to Duke are part of a 25-vehicle test fleet that Chrysler is rolling out to other companies.
Developed in conjunction with the Department of Energy, the plug-in minivans boast Chrysler’s excellent 3.6-liter V-6 engine under the hood in conjunction with a two-mode hybrid system. The total output for the system is 290 horsepower, which is more than the 283 hp of the standard Town & Country minivan. Chrysler says that the plug-in Town & Country minivans have a range of up to 700 miles, and that the 12.1 kw/hr battery can be recharged in 2-4 hours with a 220 volt “Level 2″ charger, or 8-15 hours using a 110-volt “Level 1″ charger.
Automotive.com’s take: We want big vehicles. We want fuel-efficient vehicles. If Chrysler’s test fleet bears fruit, we might finally have a crack at having both in one vehicle. We’ll be watching this one closely, and don’t be surprised if plug-in hybrid tech is on the next-generation of Chrysler minivan.