Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: A minivan with plenty of juice – Detroit Free Press

I drove a minivan every day for a week, and the gas gauge barely budged off full.

You might wonder how this is possible unless my commute is just down the block.

It’s not.

I drive about 13 miles each way to get to and from the Free Press office in downtown Detroit taking the most direct route. And during the week in May when I had the minivan, I made several other trips, including one to Mt. Clemens in neighboring Macomb County.

The secret to my miserly gas usage?

Electricity. The minivan came with a power cord.

If you follow hybrid vehicle news, you’ve already guessed my ride was a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, the first hybrid minivan.

Driving the Pacifica Hybrid provides a nice change of perspective. In electric mode, the minivan is so quiet it seems as if it’s not on, and like other electric vehicles and hybrids, it launches quickly. Turn a knob, rather than shifting a lever as might be the case on another automatic, press the accelerator and go.

The version I drove was a Platinum, the higher of two trim levels offered.

At $47,885 ($44,995 base price), this version was loaded with functional standard equipment and impressive extras, including premium leather-trimmed bucket seats, front and rear park assist, adaptive cruise control, the Uconnect Theater Package so the kids can watch their favorite DVDs or play games on the 10.1-inch HD seatback video touchscreens and of course those nifty side sliding doors.

It had lots of room, seating at least seven,   with a third row of seats that folds easily into the floor, removable second-row seats, a tri-pane panoramic sunroof and cup holders galore.

But I was mostly interested in the hybrid part. Pacifica Hybrids began shipping to dealerships in April. The gasoline version of the Pacifica went on sale last spring.

Chrysler Pacifica wins with interior fun and features

The Pacifica Hybrid, with a 3.6-liter V6 eHybrid engine, promises 33 miles on a full electric charge, and it delivered.

When the minivan arrived at my house, the gas tank was full, but the minivan no longer had a full charge. That was the day I traveled to Macomb County, so I used some gas on that trip.

Otherwise, the only other day that the gasoline engine was needed was on Mother’s Day when a trip for brunch and a Sunday reporting shift added too many miles to rely only on electric power.

Typically, I would charge up in the evening after work using the supplied 110-volt charging cord. The minivan is supposed to need 14 hours to fully charge up using that Level 1 charging method (it was plugged into a standard wall outlet and was always ready to go the next day). A Level 2 charger, which can be purchased separately, should do the job in two hours.

I’ll be interested to see if my electric bill for the month increases much. Mileage in the minivan is pretty good even on gas alone at 32 m.p.g. combined. The mileage rating for gas and electric is listed at 84.

Fiat Chrysler estimates the annual fuel cost is $900 based on 15,000 miles of driving with gas at $2.45 per gallon and electricity at 13 cents per kilowatt hour. Four-wheel disc regenerative brakes, which provide some recharging of the lithium-ion battery, and a gauge in the dash showing when the battery is charging can help the driver stretch out the electric range.

Many electric vehicle users will tell you that they simply charge at home. Charging stations are available but their numbers remain limited (The Free Press reported in April that there are 330 public stations in Michigan and 15,784 across the U.S.). Fiat Chrysler’s Uconnect app for smartphones can help locate a charging station, but driving somewhere to plug in — unless the plan is to park the vehicle and shop, go to work or grab a bite to eat — might not make great sense.

I would have preferred to find a convenient public charging station but that proved impractical. There are no public charging stations within 2 miles of my house, and the other option that made sense was mostly a bust.

The garage where I normally park for work has no electric vehicle parking spots, but a garage closer to the office has several — three spots for Teslas and two for other types of electric vehicles. I requested access  so I could charge the minivan during work hours on the last couple of days I had the Pacifica.

Because Tesla’s charging equipment is not compatible with other vehicles, the Tesla spots were not usable for me. Even if they had been, I would have been out of luck on one of the days because a Range Rover was taking up two of the Tesla charging/parking spots and the other spot was occupied by a non-charging Tesla.

On both days, the other electric vehicle spots were occupied, including one in which a plug-in Ford Fusion was simply parked and not plugged in for a charge. I managed to snag one of the spots for an hour or so after the other cars had left, but I still needed to charge up at home.

Charging while working would have been optimal, but not being able to take advantage of that option was instructive because plenty of other EV drivers have to get through their day without it as well.

And because the Pacifica Hybrid has a gasoline engine to take over when the electric power runs down, concerns about the minivan’s available range only involved the desire to maximize electric power, not fears about the ability of the minivan to reach its destination.

After a week with the Pacifica Hybrid, I could see the attraction of plugging in. Stopping at the gas station could become a very infrequent part of my routine.

Contact Eric D. Lawrence: elawrence@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_ericdlawrence.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum

Price of this version: $47,885, but others start at $41,995, excluding destination charge

Engine: 3.6-liter

Horsepower: 260

Seats: Up to seven

Mileage: 84 MPGe (gas and electric) or 32 (combined city/highway gas only)

Electric-only driving range (full charge): 33 miles

Total driving range: 566 miles

 

 

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