Dodge Will Offer Durango with Gasoline-Electric Powertrain

Article excerpt

DaimlerChrysler will sell a Dodge Durango sport utility with a hybrid powertrain - a gas engine with an electric motor - in 2003.

DaimlerChrysler expects about 15 percent of the 225,000 Durangos sold every year to be equipped with the new gasoline-electric powertrain, which will have a far greater effect on the environment than would a hybrid version of a compact Neon, company officials note.

"This has the potential of saving hybrid Durango owners nearly 5 million gallons of gas per year in the aggregate," said Bernard I. Robertson, DaimlerChrysler senior vice president of engineering technologies and general manager of trucks. "If every SUV sold in this country got the kind of improved fuel efficiency with a hybrid powertrain, we would save 142 million gallons of gas a year."

The hybrid Durango combines two powertrains. A 3.9-liter V-6 engine, rated at 175 horsepower, drives the rear wheels, and a three-phase AC induction electric motor, rated at 55 kilowatts or 70 horsepower, drives the front wheels. Generally, the vehicle operates in rear-wheel drive on the V-6 engine.

The electric motor assists the gasoline engine in situations when extra power is needed, such as during acceleration from a dead stop or when the traction-control and anti-lock braking systems detect slipping of the rear wheels, as in slush or on icy pavement, for example. In effect, the vehicle becomes a four-wheel drive when the electric motor kicks in. The electric motor also recaptures energy typically lost during deceleration and braking, then stores it in the battery.

The combination of the two powertrains provides the power and acceleration of a conventional V-8 engine. In fact, the hybrid powertrain in the Durango is about a tenth of a second quicker than a 5.9-liter, V-8-powered Durango in 0-to-60 mph acceleration tests, according to DaimlerChrysler numbers. Yet, DaimlerChrysler engineers say the hybrid powertrain yields a 20-percent improvement in fuel efficiency. …