This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 05, 2008

Chrysler Launches New Hybrids, then Cancels Production

In a sign of these strange economic times, Chrysler LLC is simultaneously preparing to launch its first hybrid vehicles and to shut down their production. As reported in the EERE Network News, back in June the company hyped the price benefits and performance achievements of its new hybrids, the 2009 Dodge Durango HEMI Hybrid and the 2009 Chrysler Aspen HEMI Hybrid, which were to be delivered to showrooms in August. That never happened, but on October 16, Chrysler released the official fuel economy numbers for the two hybrids: 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, which are best-in-class fuel economy ratings for full-size sport utility vehicles. At that time, Chrysler said the hybrids would arrive in showrooms "later this year," and the company included a photo of the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid "after production at the Newark Assembly Plant" (note that the company dropped the "HEMI" from the name). A week later, Chrysler announced that it will close the Newark Assembly Plant in Newark, Delaware, at the end of this year, a move that will bring an end to the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen in all their forms, including the new hybrids. See the Chrysler press releases on its hybrid launch and plant shutdown.

Hybrid vehicles suffered another setback last week, when a federal District Court struck down New York City's requirement for all taxis to shift to hybrid vehicles. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was, to say the least, unhappy with the ruling, which was based on federal laws that prohibit states from setting their own fuel economy standards. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) did not comment on the ruling, but issued a new list of approved taxi vehicles that includes the 2009 Ford Crown Victoria Stretch. Hybrid technologies also progressed a little, as UPS announced that it has ordered seven hydraulic hybrid delivery trucks for its fleet, the first two of which will be deployed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, early next year. Developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Eaton Corporation, and Navistar, the vehicles store braking energy as hydraulic pressure, then use that to launch the vehicle from a stop, achieving a fuel economy improvement of 45%-50%. See the press release from Mayor Bloomberg, the TLC announcement (PDF 47 KB), and the UPS press release. Download Adobe Reader.