Chrysler sidelines trucks, minivans in test fleets due to battery overheat

Article by Anita Panait, on September 26, 2012

Chrysler Group LLC has sidelined 109 trucks and 23 minivans in plug-in hybrid test fleets after several pickup trucks were reported to have overheating batteries. Three of the Ram Truck 1500 pickup trucks in a fleet of 109 equipped with plug-in hybrid powertrains suffered some damage when their prototype lithium-ion batteries overheated.

Chrysler said that the overheating incidents occurred when the trucks were unoccupied and there were no fires or injuries that happened. Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne said that it is still unknown how long the test vehicles, which were deployed to 16 municipalities and utility companies in 20 states -- would be sidelined. Mayne said that the duration of the truck and minivan projects will not be extended beyond 2014 as planned despite the suspension.

Chrysler commenced the pickup truck testing in the third quarter of 2011 and the minivan testing in April 2012. The tests are being financed jointly by the carmaker with $65.2 million and the US Department of Energy with $58 million. The pickup truck project is expected to cost around $97.4 million while the minivan project, using Chrysler Town & Country minivans, will cost about $25.8 million.

The batteries for the project were supplied by Canada-based Electrovaya Inc. Michael Duhaime, Chrysler's global director of electrified powertrain propulsion systems, disclosed that while the trucks and minivans are sidelined, the carmaker’s engineers will be developing a "superior battery."

Mayne said that the next phase of the program will be using different battery chemistry, adding that "this is normal product development." According to Chrysler, the fleets of trucks and minivans have accumulated 1.3 million miles.

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