For those soccer-mom-driven families who just can't or won't give up minivans -- no matter how eco-minded they are -- here's some interesting news. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Chrysler are working together to design a minivan that will use hybrid technology that is supposed to increase fuel efficiency for this vehicle model class by 30 percent to 35 percent (or more, if the car is being used in the city).
The technology was developed by the EPA's lab in Ann Arbor, Mich., and it already is starting to be used in larger delivery trucks and what the agency calls refuse trucks. (Why can't they just say garbage truck?) The technology is based on hydraulic principles, capturing the energy lost through breaking and reusing it to power the engine. The hybrid portion of the vehicle can be switched off when it's not needed, which also affects efficiency. Apparently, the EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory holds more than 60 related patents, with more than 25 more pending. Other engineering partners on the project are FEV of America, and the Southwest Research Institute.
The focus is on minivans because the vehicles can be adapted relatively easily to accommodate the technology by replacing the existing powertrain, according to the EPA. The demonstration is expected to be on the road for testing by 2012.
Said Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in a press release distributed at a joint press conference:
"In addition to creating jobs of the future, clean energy benefits the U.S. economy by ultimately making energy costs more affordable for consumers -- especially if their dollars stay in America. Hydraulic hybrid vehicle technology is one more promising path worth pursuing in the effort to reduce our carbon footprint, and we are excited to partner with the EPA to push forward on this track."