Chrysler is introducing hybrid versions of its big SUVs, the Dodge Durango and clone Chrysler Aspen. The vehicles will both use the 5.7 liter hemi V-8, but in conjunction with a two mode hybrid system which uses an electrically operated continuously variable transmission developed in a joint project with BMW and General Motors. The transmission has two electric motors, allowing the hybrid system to use either the electrical energy of those motors or the energy of the gasoline engine or both, as needed. The electric motors are also used to store energy through a regenerative braking system.
The hemi also incorporates the Chrysler “Multi Displacement System” which deactivates cylinders according to the level of demand for torque placed on the engine, thereby increasing fuel mileage. But use of the hybrid system increases the length of time the V-8 can operate in the four cylinder mode.
Chrysler estimates the hybrid version will get 25% better mileage overall, with a 40% mileage increase for city driving, which would be 19 mpg vs. 13 mpg for the non-hybrid version.
Those who have test driven the set-up in prototype vehicles have reported its operation as seamless.