Chrysler Celebrates Earth Day with EV Minivan for USPS
With an eye on impressing taxpayers and government officials even further, Chrysler LLC celebrated Earth Day today by introducing a new electric vehicle destined for fleet service in the U.S. Postal Service. As a fuel-efficient replacement for the Grumman LLV box vans currently in use with the USPS, the new delivery vehicles are cargo versions of the upcoming Town & Country EV that Chrysler unveiled last September. The USPS will receive 250 of the Town & Country EVs which are powered solely by an electric motor and can travel up to 50 miles on a single charge. Unlike the vehicles destined for retail production in the future, the Town & Country EVs headed to the USPS are battery-only electric vehicles (BEV) without a range-extending gasoline engine.
Designed by Chrysler's in-house advanced drivetrain development team, ENVI, Chrysler will launch the test fleet into post offices in New York City, Charlotte, N.C. and Detroit, Mich. to evaluate the development of the vehicles as well as the strength of the electric grid infrastructure. The USPS maintains the largest civilian fleet of vehicles in the world and which experience enough stop-and-go driving to truly test the strength of these vehicles. Like Ford's upcoming Transit Connect BEV, the Town & Country EV will be focused primarily on fleet customers that typically require shorter ranges of driving; according to Lou Rhodes, president of Chrysler's ENVI electric vehicle development unit, fleet customers only travel 18 to 20 miles per day on average. While it's not clear how far the average postal vehicle drives, taking into account all the stop-an-go driving that most vehicles do in a residential delivery route, the USPS stands to save considerable money on gasoline bills.
Fitting the needs of the USPS, the Town & Country EV will be available in left- or right-hand drive and will offer windowless side panels similar to the current delivery vehicles. When the Town & Country EREV eventually hits showrooms, it will feature a conventional seven-passenger interior, but the USPS version are stripped out cargo vans ready to swallow up to 144 cubic feet of parcels (based on specs from the Dodge Grand Caravan cargo van).
Differing from the USPS-bound EV, the Town & Country EV model that will eventually make it to production using a propulsion system like the Chevrolet Volt, which is known as an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV). The Town & Country EREV will be powered by a 200 kW (268 horsepower) electric motor with a small, fuel-efficient gasoline engine acting as a range-extending generator. Combining the electric-only operation with the extended-range generator, Chrysler predicts that its Town & Country EREV minivan will have a total driving range of 400 miles. Providing uninterrupted power to systems such as HVAC and power steering, the vehicles are also equipped with a 70 kW electric motor that provides continuous electric power.
Both versions of the Town & Country EV (BEV and EREV) will be fitted with advanced lithium ion batteries supplied by A123Systems. Just this month, Chrysler LLC and A123Systems formed a strategic partnership to advance the production and development of Chrysler's EV program's main components - the battery. The battery pack will be mounted under the central floor where the minivan's conventional gas tank would be and charges through a plug behind the driver's side sliding door.
In addition to the partnership with the USPS and the various utility departments of the selected regions, Chrysler is also pairing up with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to further evaluate the future EVs. Chrysler expects to deliver the 250 Town & Country EVs to the USPS later this year through early next year.