I’ll admit, it’s hard to get all hot and bothered about a minivan… but there’s a reason they have been a perpetually popular option for decades now. They’re practical, functional people movers with gobs of cargo space, comfort and convenience. Ever since the original Dodge Caravan defined the segment back in the 80’s, families the world over have swarmed to them in droves.
Of course, on the fuel economy front they’re a bit lacking. Which is why, as a dad of two (who likes to subject his family to the great American roadtrip every now and then), a green car nut and a supporter of the resurgence of the American automobile, I can honestly say I AM all hot and bothered by Chevy’s unveiling of the previously rumored, Volt-based, extended range electric minivan/crossover concept called the ‘Volt MPV5’ at the Beijing Auto Show today.
Although their MPG’s have ticked up from the high teens to the low-mid 20’s over the last decade, the modern minivan still a long way away from being considered “green.” In Japan, Toyota has been producing hybrid minivans for the better part of a decade now, but those haven’t made it across the pond yet much to the dismay of many. Sure Toyota has recently been rumored to be readying a hybrid minivan for the U.S. market with in the next two years, but given their past non-committal to the the issue, I’m not holding my breath.
As it turns out, not only might GM just beat Toyota to the punch, but by introducing a next generation plug-in with a range extender minivan, Chevy stands to leapfrog any standard hybrid minivan by quite a bit… although I’m sure it will come at quite a pretty penny.
Alright, so officially the Chevy Volt Minivan is only a concept right now, but given how close it looks to being a production vehicle, I guarantee you it won’t be long before GM announces a roll-out schedule. The MPV5 borrows tons of styling cues from the production version of the Chevy Volt due to go on sale at the end of this year, including what appear to be identical dash instrumentation and panels, as well as the characteristic aerodynamic front end… another clue that this is a near production ready “concept.” I’m betting we may even see it stateside in the next couple of years.
The MPV5 also uses the exact same propulsion system as the Volt, even down to the 16 kWh battery and 1.4 liter gas engine with generator. Although, because of the larger size and weight of the minivan, instead of the 40 mile electric-only range of the Volt, the MPV5 will only go 32 miles on electric power alone before the gas engine kicks on and provides another 300 miles of range. Still, I can’t think of many days the average American drives more than 32 miles.
The introduction of this vehicle in China is also very telling. The Chinese automarket is now the largest in the world and expanding quite rapidly, even in our economic downturn. GM has chosen Beijing for the unveiling of this groundbreaking concept quite purposely. “Rapidly growing demand for personal transportation across China is creating new environmental and energy security challenges,” said Kevin Wale, President and Managing Director of the GM China Group in a statement. “GM is committed to finding and adopting solutions, which include the electrification of the automobile. The world premiere of the Volt MPV5 concept in Beijing demonstrates GM’s desire to make China a global focus of its advanced technology strategy.”
Check out the gallery below, and you can read the entire press release and MPV5 specs on the next page.