Chrysler is joining Uncle Sam to develop a hydraulic hybrid based on its venerable minivan, the idea being the unusual technology could be applied to the passenger vehicle market.
We won’t see such a vehicle in showrooms anytime soon, as the project is limited to developing a demonstration vehicle using the Environmental Protection Agency’s patented tech. The feds say hydraulic hybrid tech can increase fuel efficiency 30 to 35 percent overall, with gains of 60 percent in city driving possible. Look for a 25 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, too.
“The EPA and Chrysler are working together to explore the possibilities for making this technology affordable and accessible to drivers everywhere,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in the obligatory press statement. “This partnership is further proof that we can preserve our climate, protect our health and strengthen our economy all at the same time.”
You’ll be forgiven for not knowing what a hydraulic hybrid is.
So far the tech has been limited largely to the medium- and heavy-duty truck sector. UPS, for example, is testing hydraulic hybrid delivery trucks.
The research project will focus on adapting the EPA’s tech to a Chrysler Town & Country minivan with a 2.4-liter four-banger. System components include 117 cc engine pump, a 45 cc drive electric motor and a two-speed automatic transmission. Fluid for the system will be stored in a 14.4-gallon high pressure accumulator.
So how’s it work? The engine drives a hydraulic pump that charges the accumulator to a maximum of 5,000 p.s.i. The accumulator delivers the pressure energy to the axle hydraulic motor that turns the wheels. The gas engine shuts down whenever the accumulator charge is sufficient to drive the motor.
“In this hydraulic hybrid project, the Chrysler Group and EPA will evaluate and, hopefully, validate fuel-efficiency gains and greenhouse gas reductions,” Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said. “One of the aims of Chrysler Group’s integration efforts will be to meet driver expectations for smooth and quiet operation, so that Americans will want to buy and will enjoy driving vehicles with this technology.”
The EPA’s technology, developed at its lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is starting to appear in delivery and garbage trucks. Chrysler and the feds believe the technology can be used in passenger vehicles and is starting with a minivan because it is easily adapted. The vehicle is slated to begin testing next year.
Photo: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne announcing the partnership Wednesday.