Chrysler Group has finally decided to jump on the hybrid-vehicle bandwagon, announcing Wednesday that it is working alongside the federal government to develop a hydraulic hybrid powertrain for its vehicles.
The last of the nation's domestic automakers to offer a hybrid variant, Chrysler said it will begin investigating the feasibility of a hydraulic hybrid system with the help of the help of the Environmental Protection Agency. The automaker made the announcement at EPA's laboratories in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"In addition to creating the jobs of the future, clean energy benefits the U.S. economy by ultimately making energy costs more affordable for consumers -- especially if their dollars stay in America," said Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne (pictured) in a statement. "Hydraulic hybrid vehicle technology is one more promising path worth pursuing in the effort to reduce our carbon footprint, and we are excited to partner with the EPA to push forward on this track."
Marchionne, who is also CEO of Italian automaker Fiat, said Chrysler is looking at the feasibility of using such a system on large passenger cars and light-duty vehicles. The company expects to roll out a demonstration vehicle by next year, adapting the hydraulic system to a Chrysler Town & Country minivan equipped with a 2.4-liter, inline four-cylinder gasoline engine.
The system has the potential to improve vehicle fuel economy by 30% to 35%, said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Power Stored as Pressure
Vehicles powered by hydraulic hybrid systems aren't new. The technology is used in industrial applications, including powering large delivery and trash trucks across the country. It works by recovering energy from the vehicle's brakes, converting it to stored hydraulic pressure that can later be used to power the motor.
The system differs from most current hybrid systems, which use engines powered by gasoline and electricity to boost fuel economy and reduce emissions.
Chrysler and the EPA will evaluate and perhaps validate fuel-efficiency gains and reductions in greenhouse gases, Marchionne said, adding that the company hopes to complete testing and evaluation by July 2012.
Chrysler said the hydraulic system is one example of the company's efforts to improve fuel economy and produce greener cars and trucks. The automaker's current technological offerings include cylinder deactivation systems on its V8 engines, which reduce the number of cylinders that fire during engine operation if less power is needed, and an 8-speed transmission that will make its debut in Chrysler's 300 full-size sedan later this year.
The Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company said it also plans to introduce 150 Ram 1500 trucks with a plug-in hybrid system in the coming months as part of a project with the Department of Transportation.
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