The roll out of two new hybrid sport utility vehicle (SUV) models from Chrysler alongside a “green car of the year” award won by Chevrolet’s hybrid Tahoe model show that demand for hybrid propulsion in the light-truck market is starting to take off.
The new 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hemi hybrid and 2009 Dodge Durango Hemi Hybrid combine Chrysler’s multi-displacement system (MDS) and two-mode hybrid technology into one package. MDS shuts off unneeded engine cylinders to reduce the fuel consumption of the vehicle, said Frank Klegon, Chrysler’s executive vp-product development, boosting overall fuel economy for both hybrid SUVs by 25% and up to 40% in city driving environments.
“The 2009 Aspen and Dodge Durango hybrids … offer our customers the sought-after blend of performance, utility, capability and vastly improved fuel economy, all in one package,” he said, adding that Chrysler jointly developed its two-mode hybrid system with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and the BMW Group.
Capable of towing 6,000 lbs., the Aspen and Durango deliver 385 hp combined with an electrically variable transmission and a 300-volt battery pack, offering two different hybrid modes of operation. The OEM said this results in improved fuel economy around town and at highway speeds without sacrificing power or performance. Both vehicles will arrive in showrooms in mid-2008, Klegon noted.
Meanwhile, GM’s hybrid Tahoe SUV received the Green Car Journal’s 2008 “Green Car of the Year” award at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show. The six-liter two-mode hybrid Tahoe achieves 50% better fuel economy than one powered by the standard 5.3-liter V-8 alone – and the Tahoe hybrid’s 21 mpg city fuel efficiency rating is the same as that of the city mileage rating of the four-cylinder Toyota Camry sedan, said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager.
“We’ve felt that the Tahoe hybrid represents the best of both worlds – the great utility you’d expect from a Tahoe with fuel economy on par with today’s mid-size cars,” he said. Peper noted that the Tahoe hybrid can seat up to eight passengers, offers a 60 cubic foot cargo volume with the second and third row seats folded, can carry up to 1,400 pounds of cargo, and has a tow rating of up to 6,200 pounds.
“GM promised they would use hybrid technology, and use it where it would make the most difference – on their biggest vehicles. They have delivered with the Chevy Tahoe,” noted Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club and one of the “Green Car” award judges. “This vehicle ends the argument that efficiency and vehicle choice are incompatible – and automakers should now make their entire fleets fuel efficient as fast as they can retool.”