Manufacturing News from the Engineered Designer Perspective

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, first electric minivan, rolls out in Windsor

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With the official launch of the world’s first hybrid minivan, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Chrysler’s Windsor assembly plant further solidifies its position as one of North America’s leading minivan producers. The plant has been turning out minivans from the same assembly line since 1983, starting with the Dodge Grand Caravan and then the gas-powered Pacifica. The Windsor plant, according to Chrysler, has built more than 10 million of the 14.3 million minivans that have been sold to date. The Pacifica Hybrid is currently the only hybrid minivan on the market, as well as being Chrysler’s only minivan for 2017.

Chrysler says that the sixth-generation “family hauler,” which is a modified version of the original Pacifica, is the most fuel-efficient minivan ever. It has a range of 53 kilometres (33 miles) on zero-emissions electric power alone, provided by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery, and 35.7 kilometres per litre (84 mpg), or 2.6 litres per 100 km, fuel efficiency. The combined electric power and fuel efficiency give the Pacifica an “expected” range of 963.5 km (599 miles), more than enough for most minivan drivers, according to Chrysler, who drive, on average, 48km (30 miles) per day. The battery can be fully recharged in two hours using a 240-volt plug-in recharger. Unlike other hybrid electric vehicles, the Pacifica does not recharge while driving in gasoline-power mode. It must be plugged in to an outside power source.

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The frist Pacifica Hybrid rolls off the assembly line in Windsor.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne said he expected most minivans to be hybrids by 2023, with the Pacifica serving as a “testing ground” for consumers’ acceptance of alternative power trains.

Building the Dodge Grand Caravan, the Chrysler Pacifica with the traditional gas powertrain and now the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid on the same assembly line requires the expanded application of World Class Manufacturing methods and tools to ensure we deliver world class quality in every vehicle we make. The Windsor team is proud to build the industry’s first hybrid minivan, and is confident that it will provide a positive and delightful experience to our future customers.

Early reviews of the Pacifica Hybrid are positive. One writer on AutoBlog praised the Pacifica’s handling, design and overall performance, saying that it “shames” most everything else in its class. The power delivered by the vehicle’s electric motor is “surprising,” with automatic switchover to gas power when the accelerator is pressed hard or the vehicle is climbing a steep hill. The vehicle has a combined horsepower of 260, 148 hp from the 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 engine. One passenger seat was sacrificed to accommodate the battery; the Pacifica Hybrid seats seven.

The Pacifica is priced at $56,495 in Canada, though that price can be reduced by applying a $14,000 Ontario electric vehicle rebate. It is expected to be in dealerships in the next few months.

The development of the Pacifica Hybrid cost Chrysler a reported US $2.6 billion, including $744 million (CDN $1 billion) invested to expand the floor space, retool and upgrade equipment in the Windsor plant. Brian Harlow, Head of Manufacturing for FCA in North America, said an expanded application of “World Class Manufacturing” methods and tools had been necessary to build the Pacifica Hybrid to world-class quality standards.

The Ontario government committed to contributing up to $85.8 million from the Jobs and Prosperity Fund. In a statement last June from the office of the premier, the government said that the investment in Windsor would create 1,200 new jobs and secure 4,000 existing jobs at the plant. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) employs over 11,000 people in Ontario.

 

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