Chrysler: The “EV” plug-in hybrid minivan is toast. It was one of three vehicles in Chrysler’s ENVI program which has been canceled. The hyperlinks in my 2008 ENVI post are now dead.
Honda: It has been reported that Honda plans to add a hybrid minivan in 2011.
Toyota: Rumors of a “Prius MPV” (small hybrid van) have been swirling for a couple years now. They persist despite no substantiation.
Chrysler update: The Detroit News says that Chrysler “plans to offer a two-mode hybrid version of the Dodge Ram pickup next year. It will be followed by a plug-in hybrid Ram and a plug-in hybrid minivan in 2011.” The article also predicts that Chrysler will sell a pure electric version of the Fiat Doblò in late 2011 or 2012.
The Michigan Messenger also mentions a hybrid Chrysler minivan, but other sources do not. They do point out that Chrysler received $70 million in DoE grants to support its ENVI effort.
The original two-seater Insight was the first gas-electric hybrid vehicle sold in North America. (The Prius hit the market earlier, but only in Japan.) It had some inovative features, such as aluminum bodywork, but sold poorly and was discontinued after the 2006 model year.
Now Honda has revealed the new Insight, still a hybrid but this time with a back seat. The concept vehicle looks similar to the second-generation Prius, with which it was designed to compete. It may prevail, as it will be priced several thousand dollars below the Prius. I’m guessing they dropped the expensive aluminum bodywork.
It should be available in spring 2009. Honda plans to sell 200,000 of them yearly, half in North America.
Times Online has some fun racing a Toyota Prius against a Honda Civic Hybrid on a drag strip. Electric motors have good low-end torque, so we should expect these two cars not to perform terribly, even though they are optimized for efficiency over performance.
The Prius edged out the hybrid Civic in the quarter mile. Then for good measure they put the Prius up against a Lexus GS 450h hyrbid. The 450h is one of the faster production vehicles out there, with a 0-60mph time of 5.2 seconds, so this was hardly a fair fight but it was entertaining. See the article for details.
It would have been interesting to see how well a Honda Accord Hybrid would have done on the track. The hybird Accord was optimized for performance, not efficiency, and was discontinued when it didn’t sell well. It wouldn’t have beaten the 450h, but its 0-60mph time was a respectable 7.5 seconds.
In a separate article, Cars.com says that the 2008 Toyota Highlander hybrid “is too quick. Yes, unnecessarily quick.” I wouldn’t say the hybrid Highlander was optimized for performance, but it retains a V6 engine. Ford chose to downsize to a four-cylinder engine for its similarly sized Escape hybrid. For this reason the hybrid Escape bests the hybrid Highlander in efficiency. The reviewer would have preferred that Toyota had made the same choice. I tend to agree.
update: In an older New Hampshire drag race, a hyrbrid 2008 Highlander and a conventional 2008 Highlander hastened to a draw.