It’s an SUV, sports a 5.7 liter Hemi V8, and will get 4 ¾ mpg better mileage than the non-hybrid model.
DiamlerChrysler has announced the basic specs on their first gasoline-electric hybrid in North America, a version of the Dodge Durango sport-utility vehicle. It’s an interesting two-mode hybrid system co-developed by DaimlerChrysler, General Motors and BMW that is better suited to towing than systems currently used in small cars.
I see DiamlerChrysler’s reasoning: America loves the Hemi and SUVs. We need to build vehicles that Americans want to buy from us. People will give us lots of money for an SUV.
The Prius/Insight/Civic hybrid models use a very small gasoline engine specifically designed for the gas electric set-up. A Prius uses a 1.5 liter. My Civic engine, at 1.2 liter, is almost 5 times smaller than the proposed Durango hybrid gas engine. This small gasoline engine is mostly why I attained almost 60 mpg yesterday on a leisurely round trip to Gettysburg.
The Durango hybrid will attain 25% better mileage than the standard version. Adding 25% to 19 mpg will yield 4 ¾ mpg increase. A car that already gets 40 mpg will get an additional 10 mpg with a 25% increase in fuel economy. It’s a big increase for the SUV, but the fuel economy was horrible to begin with.
The American driver is transitioning back to cars because they can’t afford 22 mpg – even if it’s better than 19 mpg.
Toyota has found that their larger SUV hybrids don’t sell as well as their Prius. There is a large cost difference over a model that isn’t hybrid. Honda has also provided incentives on their performance-minded Accord Hybrid that isn’t seen on their smaller hybrids. Ford has been providing incentives on the Escape Hybrid, which to its credit in green world uses a 4 cylinder and is a really nice balance of power and economy for an SUV. Perhaps the market niche they are targeting doesn’t value green-er over price. There is a delicate marketing balance in play here.
Here is a lost opportunity to use DiamlerChrysler’s vast experience with clean diesel technology and small cars mated to hybrid technology to earn back the small car segment from Asian manufacturers.
The Durango will probably also qualify for a tax credit because it’s “a hybrid.” However, the IRS is hinting that consumers purchasing the most efficient cars will receive a larger credit.
On a more inspiring note:
Students at suburban Detroit’s Roseville High School have developed a four-wheel hybrid vehicle. It uses peddle power, solar panels and was inspired by a picture of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford‘s 1896 Quadracycle that hangs on the wall of their drafting and shop class.
“We designed it from the ground up,” the assistant designer, 17-year-old senior Christopher Smith, told the Detroit Free Press for a story today.
The competition is sponsored by DaimlerChrysler AG and the Detroit Science Center.
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