The holy grail of hybrid technology isn’t the 100 mpg car; it’s the 50 mpg pickup. Because pickup trucks are the #1 selling vehicle in America, as well as some of the least fuel efficient, applying hybrid technology to trucks could drastically cut our nation’s fuel consumption.
But creating a hybrid pickup is harder than it looks. Chrysler has just stopped testing a fleet of plug-in hybrid pickups due to overheating battery woes. But don’t count them out yet, because there is real potential here.
At issue are the 12.9 kWh battery packs on three of the test pickups, which were damaged due to overheating. While no such issues were recorded in the 23 hybrid minivans or the other 106 hybrid pickups Chrysler is also testing, the Pentastar would rather be safe than sorry, and is replacing all of the battery packs. The packs came from a small electric battery maker named Electrovaya.
If you recall, the Chrysler hybrid pickups have been in developmental hell for some time. Chrysler began testing a small fleet of plug-in hybrid pickups and minivans last year as part of a government project, though they have not announced any plans for public sales. Yet on the same token, the potential for hybrid pickups is huge. Even with Chrysler’s efforts to build a 25 mpg Ram pickup, a well-done hybrid drivetrain could increase fuel economy even further.
The key though is to increase fuel economy without reducing the ruggedness that American trucks are known for. More like than not, the overheating battery issues came from the trucks being pushed hard, as truck drivers are wont to do. Even so, Chrysler reported that the fleet had collectively racked up over 1.3 million miles. Even better, the hybrid pickups were averaging over 37 mpg. The hybrid minivans? Over 55 mpg, and testing isn’t slated to end until 2014. Damn Skippy!
If Chrysler can figure out the battery woes, and actually deliver a plug-in hybrid pickup at a reasonable price, they could really shake up the truck market. But at least one Detroit competitor is working on a plug-in hybrid pickup of their own, and there is always the DIY crowd to look out for as well. Whoever can be first to claim the Pickup MPG Crown will have a huge advantage in the years to come.
Source: Green Car Reports