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Larry Printz: Chrysler makes the mobile family room fuel efficient

Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Humans aren't worth much anymore – at least when it comes to employment.

Consider shopping.

At one time, after flipping through a mail order catalogue, you'd call an 800 number and place an order. Now, you browse through a website, choose an item, and enter your own information. You fulfill the order, not an operator whose job has been eliminated. It's no better at a fast food joint where you, not some employee, will enter your order. After all, the cost of equipment can be depreciated on taxes over time; employees cannot. And equipment doesn't require health benefits or vacation time.

Soon, artificial intelligence will be our chauffeurs, eliminating the need for humans behind the wheel. And while you'd never want to escape the thrill of driving a fast sports car yourself, for any number of cars, having microchips pilot you to your destination would only add to their appeal.

Consider the minivan. Driving rug rats to school, ballet and soccer practice is not fun. It's a chore. So why not let the minivan handle it? This way, you can chat with your children or fellow passengers, or watch a movie with them. Having the minivan handle the drudgery of driving itself seems ideal, like a robotic vacuum keeping your floors clean.

So it's almost appropriate that Waymo now has 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans in its test fleet of self-driving vehicles. After all, given the choice, most of us would really rather drive a posh SUV or thrilling sports car than a minivan.

 

But this scenario has yet to unfold. Until then, customers will have to settle for smaller innovations, like the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan. Of course, this no small matter.

Chrysler is the world's first manufacturer of a hybrid minivan, and this model maintains its standing as a leader the segment. Like the standard minivan, the Pacifica Hybrid uses the corporate 3.6-liter V6, albeit modified for hybrid duties, working in concert with two electric motors to deliver 260 horsepower to the front wheels through an electrically variable transmission developed by Chrysler. Electric power is supplied by a 16.0-kWh battery pack comprised of 96 lithium-ion cells housed in the underfloor bins where the second-row seats normally stow. It recharges in two hours on a 240-volt circuit or in about 14 hours using a 120-volt outlet.

That supplies enough juice to run 33 miles solely on electric power, returning the equivalent of 84 mpg, according to the EPA. Once that point is reached, the Pacifica acts like a conventional hybrid, with the electric motor working in tandem with the gas engine to deliver 32 mpg, 10 mpg more than the standard Pacifica enough to save $800 annually in fuel costs according to the EPA.

The sounds great, but here's the caveat.

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