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Chrysler upgrades PHEV fleet

by David Zatz on

Chrysler is temporarily taking its test fleet of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) out of service to conduct a battery-pack upgrade. Michael Duhaime, head of electric powertrain systems, said the action was being taken to focus resources on a better battery.

Three of the 109 pickups in the fleet were damaged when their batteries overheated.
There were no injuries, and the incidents occurred when the vehicles were unoccupied. While none of the similarly equipped minivans were affected, they are also having battery upgrades, which will use a different battery chemistry.

The projects are jointly funded by Chrysler Group and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The next phase of testing focuses on grid interaction and safety. Some vehicles may not be returned to service, depending on the complexity of the upgrades.

The PHEVs were being evaluated for durability by 16 municipalities and utility companies across 20 states. They had accumulated more than 1.3 million miles of service including high altitude work and Arizona’s searing deserts.

A primary goal of the final phase of the program is to determine how reverse power-flow might reduce the operating costs of commercial fleets. Some of the pickups can transfer power from their batteries to the grid, generating revenue for fleet operators. The trucks also are able to link with each other to form independent mini-grids. They are the first factory-built vehicles ever to feature this technology.

The pickups are the first factory-assembled Advanced Technology Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicles (ATPZEVs) to pair PHEV technology with V-8 engines.

During testing, the pickups recorded peak average fuel-economy of 37.4 mpg, while the minivans delivered 55.0 mpg.

The batteries have a high energy density that enabled weight- and size-reduction. They were produced without the environmentally harmful NMP solvent used in most battery manufacturing.

The program is scheduled to end in 2014.

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