As the demand for hybrid vehicles grows, Chrysler has been forced to momentarily shelve their hybrid testing. Tests found the batteries overheated in some of the pickup trucks. 109 truck models and 23 minivan models with plug-in hybrid technology are no longer currently testing.
It seems the Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks were prone to damage due to their prototype batteries. There are no reported fires or injuries to operators as a result of the damage. Chrysler is testing a lithium powered battery since the third quarter of 2011. The project was expected to run through 2014, but no plans have been made to extend the testing.
This testing is partially funded by the United States Department of Energy to the tune of $ 58 million. Chrysler makes up for the rest of the funding with $ 65.2 million. A majority of the money was meant to fund the pickup truck testing, which was expected to cost $ 97.4 million. The remainder of the funding was meant for the minivan testing that was expected to cost $ 25.8 million.
The project testing was spread between 16 municipalities and utility companies. That spread the testing between 20 states. The batteries themselves were supplied from a Canadian company called Electrovaya, which specializes in lithium battery development and manufacturing. It even released its own electric car run on the battery that can go for 120 miles on one charge.
Despite the suspension of the truck and minivan hybrid project, Chrysler is moving ahead in development of the company's own battery. A representative has called their vision a "superior battery" to what they were implementing before. This time the company will create a different chemical makeup of the battery to prevent the overheating problem.
So far, the vehicles tested as part of the program have racked up 1.3 million miles altogether. Minivans have recorded as high as 55 miles per gallon while the trucks have gained as much as 37.4 miles per gallon. Current hybrid minivans average about 28 miles to the gallon and trucks average about 23 miles per gallon.
Part of the testing was not just to increase the mileage of every gallon, but to create reverse power flow. This is where the battery then sends power to the electric grid. In the future, the powerful vehicle batteries could be the backup for home appliances during power outages. Chrysler hopes to be the first to release a vehicle with electric grid connectivity.