Chrysler Unveils Plug-In Hybrid Electric Pacifica Minivan

Minivans don’t get enough love. They may scream, “I caved to reality,” but for many families, they’re the perfect choice: practical, comfortable, reasonable. Now, a year after introducing a revamped Pacifica, Chrysler is offering a plug-in hybrid version. This minivan can cruise up to 30 miles on nothing but electricity, with a gas engine ready to kick in for the longer trips. Forget the $100,000 Tesla Model X: This is the real electric for the every-family.

It’s a pretty van.

As minivans go, this is a handsome one—Chrysler’s designers neatly avoided the bulky, slab-sided look that comes with most vans. The dark rear window wraps around the back end making it look sculpted. For the hybrid version, they used tricks like active grille shutters, and smoother side mirrors to improve on the already impressive .30 coefficient of drag. Less energy lost to drag means more that can be recovered with the electric motor running as a generator when slowing down.

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As minivans go, this is a handsome one—Chrysler’s designers neatly avoided the bulky, slab-sided look that comes with most vans. The dark rear window wraps around the back end making it look sculpted. For the hybrid version, they used tricks like active grille shutters, and smoother side mirrors to improve on the already impressive .30 coefficient of drag. Less energy lost to drag means more that can be recovered with the electric motor running as a generator when slowing down.

It’s a subtle electric vehicle.

No badging or marketing refers to this Pacifica as a plug-in hybrid. Chrysler worries the public does understand hybrids, like the Prius, and full electrics like Teslas, but still doesn’t get plug-ins. In practical terms it means you’ll have to plug it in at home overnight to top up the battery—14 hours from empty to full with the included 120-volt charger, or you can upgrade to 240-volt and charge in a couple of hours. And those 30 miles of range should be more than enough for the average day’s worth of shuttling between home, school, soccer practice, and the grocery store.
 

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No badging or marketing refers to this Pacifica as a plug-in hybrid. Chrysler worries the public does understand hybrids, like the Prius, and full electrics like Teslas, but still doesn’t get plug-ins. In practical terms it means you’ll have to plug it in at home overnight to top up the battery—14 hours from empty to full with the included 120-volt charger, or you can upgrade to 240-volt and charge in a couple of hours. And those 30 miles of range should be more than enough for the average day’s worth of shuttling between home, school, soccer practice, and the grocery store.
 

And it can still take you all the way to grandma’s.

The Pacifica Hybrid uses a modified version of Chrysler’s 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 engine, coupled to a dual electric motor electrically variable transmission. I managed over 30 miles of city driving, with the AC blasting, before the battery gauge dropped to zero and the gas engine kicked in, almost imperceptibly. Then the van drives like any other hybrid for another 500-odd miles. Just turn up the radio to drown out the mooing engine and the electric motor whine. ” You’ll go months without having to go to the gas station,” according to senior manager, Matt McAlear.

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The Pacifica Hybrid uses a modified version of Chrysler’s 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 engine, coupled to a dual electric motor electrically variable transmission. I managed over 30 miles of city driving, with the AC blasting, before the battery gauge dropped to zero and the gas engine kicked in, almost imperceptibly. Then the van drives like any other hybrid for another 500-odd miles. Just turn up the radio to drown out the mooing engine and the electric motor whine. ” You’ll go months without having to go to the gas station,” according to senior manager, Matt McAlear.

It comes with money back from the government.

One downside to having a 16-kWh battery pack under the van’s floor: the back seats don’t fold away and out of sight (you can remove them altogether for that trip to Home Depot). But consider the upsides: Slinging the heavy battery down under gives the car a nice low center of gravity without eating up interior space. And that battery qualifies you for a $7,500 federal tax credit, dropping the van’s starting price to $34,500. It’s too early to know if the Trump Administration will maintain such incentives, but Chrysler execs hope people will still want to be seen as green on the school run.

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One downside to having a 16-kWh battery pack under the van’s floor: the back seats don’t fold away and out of sight (you can remove them altogether for that trip to Home Depot). But consider the upsides: Slinging the heavy battery down under gives the car a nice low center of gravity without eating up interior space. And that battery qualifies you for a $7,500 federal tax credit, dropping the van’s starting price to $34,500. It’s too early to know if the Trump Administration will maintain such incentives, but Chrysler execs hope people will still want to be seen as green on the school run.

It feels good to up front.

In my 60-odd mile drive from Culver City to Malibu to Santa Monica—through a large chunk of LA—the minivan performed admirably. It plays the hits, taking amazing interior storage over spine-slamming acceleration. If you don’t want to mess with the responsive, 8.4-inch touchscreen, you’ve got old-timey dials and buttons for things like HVAC controls. The designers tweaked just enough to make the Pacifica feel up-to-date, without messing with the tried and tested minivan formula. Chris Benjamin, who led the interior design, says he wanted it to feel unique, just not too unique. “There’s a word for that: weird.”

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In my 60-odd mile drive from Culver City to Malibu to Santa Monica—through a large chunk of LA—the minivan performed admirably. It plays the hits, taking amazing interior storage over spine-slamming acceleration. If you don’t want to mess with the responsive, 8.4-inch touchscreen, you’ve got old-timey dials and buttons for things like HVAC controls. The designers tweaked just enough to make the Pacifica feel up-to-date, without messing with the tried and tested minivan formula. Chris Benjamin, who led the interior design, says he wanted it to feel unique, just not too unique. “There’s a word for that: weird.”

But the VIP section’s in back.

Nobody buys a minivan for themselves, they buy them for their kids. Chrysler loaded the back of the Pacifica with a pair of optional 10-inch touchscreens with built-in apps, games, and even math flash cards, to occupy the youngsters for hours. The electric minivan might be the future of family transport in the short term, but this rolling theater is a view of the more distant future when cars drive themselves and everyone on board will be a passenger demanding entertainment.

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Nobody buys a minivan for themselves, they buy them for their kids. Chrysler loaded the back of the Pacifica with a pair of optional 10-inch touchscreens with built-in apps, games, and even math flash cards, to occupy the youngsters for hours. The electric minivan might be the future of family transport in the short term, but this rolling theater is a view of the more distant future when cars drive themselves and everyone on board will be a passenger demanding entertainment.

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