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Chrysler shows A123-powered postal minivan

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  April 22, 2009 12:18 PM

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USPS electric Chrysler Town & Country(Chrysler)

In a bid to convince Washington of the company's continued existence and green credentials, Chrysler today showed a pair of electric Town & Country minivans in blue and white Postal Service regalia.

The minivan's lithium-ion batteries are manufactured by A123 Systems of Watertown, which famously lost the bid to Korea's LG Chem to provide batteries for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Paired with a 200 kW motor (268 horsepower), the T&C is good for 50 miles. Weight and other performance specifications were not provided.

Should Chrysler survive the Obama administration's deadline to become viable by this month's end, the automaker would apply for federal grants to build a fleet of 250 demonstration models for use by government agencies, a Chrysler spokeswoman said.

But the Postal Service has plenty of its own problems meeting alternative fuel requirements for federal fleets. A Washington Post article last November, based on an October 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office, showed that alternative fuel was used less than 1 percent of the time from 2007 to 2008, and that its 37,000 ethanol-capable vans used 1.5 million additional gallons of gasoline last year.

Writing about the government's failure to enforce its own energy policies (such as the requirement that all federal agencies increase their use of alternative fuel by 10 percent each year) is a story we'll get to another time, especially how the General Services Administration is using $300 million of the stimulus money to buy new alternative-fuel cars.

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14 comments so far...
  1. Good to see the government looking to "green" its fleet

    Posted by Keith Collins April 23, 09 12:10 PM
  1. Why would a mail delivery truck need 260+ HP? Good strategy however, to sway the Govt. into another bailout. Lower powered motor should = more miles too...making it much much more practical for their actual purpose.

    Posted by Mike April 23, 09 12:26 PM
  1. answer to no. 2 - torque.
    you have to be able to get your cargo going.
    i am not a fan of minivans to begin with, so i would have liked to have seen something better, that is purpose built, instead of a cheap band-aid.

    Posted by lemmyville April 23, 09 01:40 PM
  1. Mike said --"Lower powered motor should = more miles too...making it much much more practical for their actual purpose."--
    While true for gas vehicles this is wrong for electric vehicles whose motor efficiency varies very little with output. 260 hp is about the correct size for this vehicles battery pack which is likely about 20KW hours. Assuming that estimation is correct then the pack will weigh 222 Kg (taken from an assumed energy density of 90 WH/kg which accurate +/- 10% and is a calculable from the specs published on a123's M1 cells). 222kg with batteries capable of making 3KW per Kg = 666KW which is about 900Hp. so this car is only using about 1/3 of the power available to it. Pretty conservative.

    Posted by Nate April 23, 09 02:35 PM
  1. re: 260+ HP... in America, everyone gets a pony, or they throw a tantrum. Sorta like Gov. Arnold, whose idea of saving the planet is driving a bio-diesel Hummer... The base V6 Caravan is rated at 175HP. For around town, the post office could do with this less. Chrysler, make it 150HP. That took me 10 minutes to figure out. duh.

    Posted by brendan April 23, 09 02:46 PM
  1. Post Office does not need a strategy to get govt bailout money - just an open hand and a sad shortage of either one at the USPS

    Posted by backlineguy April 23, 09 03:21 PM
  1. "Lower powered motor should = more miles too"

    Not with electric motors. Not neccesarily with gas engines either. Most likely they were in a hurry and had to use available parts; once the needs for torque, durability, thermal stability and so forth were met the available motors had higher peak hp than required. With batteries and needed structural reinforcements the thing probably weighs over 5000# - like a Suburban. So it's no hot rod even with 270hp.

    In any case there is no loss of efficiency with the extra electric motor potential hp (the Post Office trucks will probably be controlled to hp appropriate for their routes). It's funny, some people have an instant reaction to hp in any moving conveyance, sincerely believing that chopping hp in half doubles mpg and so forth. In reality (a long distance from popular opinion), Toyota's latest Prius gained mpg with a larger, 30% more powerful engine. being a key element. HP and efficiency of a gasoline engine are linked, but it's not always the link you expected!

    "That took me 10 minutes to figure out. duh.
    Posted by brendan April 23, 09 02:46 PM"
    This is an example of why every technology company I've worked for hires Pradeeps and Changs ratther than Brendans (and I'm a white-bread American). With the latter you need to rebuild them into productive workers, a task often not possible without a brain transplant. They tend not to last in technology.
    Most of them went into banking, I hear.

    Posted by NoWonderWeAreLosing April 23, 09 04:04 PM
  1. Flex fuel vehicles, be they for the USPS or us civilians, are near useless unless you live in the mid-west (i.e. corn belt). Ethanol has to be trucked from production site to final destination fuel depot anywhere else (unlike gasoline and diesel that are pumped through nationwide pipelines). Trucking of ethanol can barely keep up with the ethanol requirements for the 10% used in gasoline - never mind having enough to mix E85 for flex fuel vehicles.

    Posted by bert f. April 23, 09 07:51 PM
  1. This is great. Hopefully the feedback they get from the users will allow them to bring a better product to the consumer when these ELEC-vans hit the lots. If..they hit the lots. The new Chrysler and Dodge vans are really nice. I'd get one if I had kids.

    What's with the lame old-school Chrysler penta-whatever on the hood. Are they still going by that image? You got to be at least 20 years old to recognise it unless your a real car buff.

    I'd say go with the Dodge over the Chrysler for cost saving but I don't think the Caravans come in Marathon Blue. LOL

    Posted by Andy April 24, 09 08:58 AM
  1. Why doesn't anyone ferment sewage to make Ethanol. We currently produce enough of that around here. It is cost effective, bi products like methane are useful too as well as what is left over at the end process can be burned.

    This saves transporting Ethanol from the midwest, keeps the price of corn affordable to the rest of the world and is most proactical

    Posted by fingers23 April 24, 09 12:43 PM
  1. When talking about electric motors for electric powered vehicles bigger is better to a degree.
    Sure a smaller motor could in theory drive the vehicle , especially if it is carrying a light load .
    This is the thing though .
    A smaller motor will be more inefficient than a larger one and it will get over heated quickly where as a larger motor can carry the load very easily without getting over heated and will also have more torque for carrying those heavy loads and is much more efficient .


    Posted by Keith Tomilson April 25, 09 01:59 PM
  1. With gasoline engines a larger engine (displacement) will use more fuel when running at a given speed.
    This is not the case when talking about electric motors .
    A larger electric motor running at the same RPM will use the same amount of electricity , it just does it more efficiently with less generated heat from electrical resistance and the motor will stay cooler and last longer .
    Electric motors that drive vehicles will have a radiator and a liquid jacket on them to regulate excessive heat in most parts if not all of North America .
    I am not including Neighbourhood Vehicles in this statement . They are air cooled .

    Posted by Keith Tomilson April 25, 09 02:15 PM
  1. I would image that if you have this vehicle heavily loaded you would be glad you have the 260hp. It doesn't mean the postal worker would put that kind of demand on the vehicle, I would think it would have had better range more closer to the 100 mile mark but since most postal vehicles do more stting than running while the postal worker is delivering mail door to door 50 mile might be ok. My concern is this hit the streets or will it be yet another prototype that will mysterously disappear.

    Posted by cygnus April 25, 09 04:31 PM
  1. 268 Horsepower? Are they going to go drag racing with this van?

    Posted by Don April 30, 09 08:13 PM

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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