A new Fiat Chrysler minivan is expected to debut at next year’s North American International Auto Show and it’s not your mom’s minivan either, this one will be the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid minivan to hit the market.
FCA confirms that it’s currently retooling its plant in Canada to build just such a vehicle. Production is slated to begin most likely in early 2016, which will mark a big milestone for FCA, because to date, no automaker has offered a hybrid minivan, plug-in or otherwise, since hybrids first hit the U.S. market in 2000.
“As we retool the plant for production of the next-generation minivan, we are also preparing the line with the necessary tooling for production of the PHEV (plug-in electric hybrid) version,” says Jodi Tinson, spokeswoman for FCA US.
In January, Sergio Marchionne confirmed that a “massive” program to develop a plug-in hybrid minivan is underway. But as the Detroit Free Press points out, it’s not Chrysler’s first plug-in minivan effort. Three years ago, it experimented with its first plug-in hybrid minivan. However, problems with its lithium-polymer batteries overheating ended that effort. Looking ever farther back on the timeline, Chrysler started testing the electric waters way back in 1993 with the $120,000 TEVan. However, only 56 of the pricey $120,000 vehicles were ever built.
We don’t know much about the new plug-in minivan, but Automotive News just published some spy photos that could show it in disguise. The photos show what appears to be a next-generation Dodge model spotted on the road in the Southwest. However, as Automotive News also aptly points out, there isn’t supposed to be a new Dodge minivan in the states. So we’ll all have to ponder this one.
Fiat Chrysler’s five-year plan includes a plug-in electric version of an unnamed full-size crossover in 2017 which could be a crossover based on the minivan and also made in Windsor.
“The minivan that is coming out of Windsor is the first classic example of a massive introduction of hybrid technology,” Marchionne said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
“It’s the beginning of a long process where you will see electrification work its way through in a variety of ways, through the larger vehicles, through the minivans, the pickup trucks eventually, to try and deal with the issue of CO2 and mileage,” Marchionne said.
Here’s another relatively little unknown factoid, and that’s that Chrysler launched the second phase of a PHEV minivan project in 2012 with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District along with a few other government entities across the nation. A small number of vehicles, numbering about two dozen, were used to study drive cycles, performance, fuel economy and real-world performance. The two-year project stemmed from Chrysler Group’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy which invested $10 million to further the research.