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The case for, and against, an electric Pacifica

by David Zatz on

A recent story claimed to show that testing of an electric 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Spy photographer Glenn Paulina, though, wrote that the “EV” sticker on the minivan test mule did not mean that it was an “Electric Vehicle.”

Chrysler Pacifica EV spy shot

Mr. Paulina first saw a Pacifica test mule wearing the EV sticker on its camouflage nearly one full year ago, on February 19, 2015. That prototype was testing the Pacifica’s plug-in hybrid powertrain, already announced — with a 30 mile range and 80-mpg-equivalent — not a pure electric powertrain.

Chrysler Pacifica EV spy shot

The EV sticker announced the presence of a battery in the propulsion mix, and was seen on numerous test mules over the last year. There was even a close encounter with a Hybrid Pacifica test group last summer in Death Valley, where a photographer caught test cars plugging in, but these vans were clearly also powered by gasoline engines.

The test mule in the new photos was camouflaged, but that does not mean it’s new; it’s just one of the early mules, using the modified Dodge Durango rear-end, as testing continues. (Chrysler has made — and sold — electric minivans.)

Electric minivan - TEVan

Brian Williams, who proposed that the recent spy shots showed electric minivans, pointed out that they are marked  “Electric Vehicle” inside the EV logo.   As he wrote, the Pacifica EV could be needed to pass California regulations, given the poor sales of the 500e; an electric minivan would provide much more space for batteries than a subcompact car.

FCA may well be developing a pure-electric Pacifica in addition to the hybrid. Possibly, both the hybrid and an electric version are using the same graphic (a good way to disguise real-electric testing). Chrysler did have electric-car capability before Fiat, but it was never economical to produce one — and it still isn’t the right time.

The facts support both of these industry observers — who are both well informed — and while the recent spy shots are not clear evidence of electric minivans, they might still be coming.


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