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Chrysler Group withdraws test PHEV fleet to upgrade battery packs after overheating issues; to use a different chemistry

On Friday, Chrysler Group LLC announced it was withdrawing from service its test fleet of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) to conduct a battery-pack upgrade. Three of the fleet’s 109 pickups equipped with plug-in hybrid powertrains sustained damage when their prototype 12.9-kWh lithium-ion propulsion batteries overheated.

The Li-ion batteries in the plug-in pickups (earlier post) were from Electrovaya. No similar issues have occurred with 23 plug-in hybrid minivans deployed as part of a parallel project (also with Electrovaya batteries, (earlier post). However, they are also being withdrawn from service for a battery upgrade.

Chrysler said that a different battery chemistry will be used in the projects’ next phase, which will focus on grid interaction and improved safety. Chrysler has not yet announced either a new chemistry or a battery partner. The company said that the complexity of the engineering solution will determine how many vehicles return to service.

This action is being taken to build upon the lessons from the initial deployment and to concentrate resources and technical development on a superior battery.

—Michael Duhaime, global director-electrified powertrain propulsion systems

There were no injuries and the incidents occurred when the vehicles were unoccupied. Both projects are jointly funded by Chrysler Group and the US Department of Energy.

The PHEVs were being evaluated for durability and other attributes by 16 partner organizations—municipalities and utility companies across 20 states. The fleet accumulated more than 1.3 million miles of service in various conditions, from high-altitude Colorado to Arizona’s desert.

A primary goal of the final phase of the program is to determine how reverse power-flow might reduce the operating costs of commercial fleets.

Some of the fleet’s plug-in pickups are capable of transferring power from their batteries to the grid, which could generate revenue for fleet operators. The trucks also are able to link with each other to form independent mini-grids.

These are the first factory-built vehicles to feature this technology.

In addition, the pickups are the first factory-assembled Advanced Technology Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicles (ATPZEVs) to pair PHEV technology with V-8 engines.

During testing, the pickups recorded peak average fuel-economy of 37.4 mpg, while the minivans delivered 55.0 mpg.

The batteries themselves are unique, marked by a high energy density that enabled weight- and size-reduction for convenient packaging. The batteries also were produced without environmentally harmful NMP solvent used in most battery-manufacturing processes.

Chrysler Group said it is working with its partners to mitigate disruption of their operations.

Begun last year, the PHEV testing program is scheduled to end in 2014.



Again big insoluble problems with batteries. I said many time that batteries are marginal suppar technologies.


There is no information suggesting that the problem is intrinsic to the chemistry. Most likely a manufacturing issue which by definition is solvable.

Tens of thousand of Volts are on the road in the hands of consumers and 100s of millions of miles driven, suggesting that the batteries do work. I'd suggest the issue is with some companies who don't really know what they are doing with batteries rather than a basic insurmountable technology issue.

Some people and organizations are good at what they do and others are not. You can't make sweeping negative statements about about a specific technology because of the failure of a few people or organizations. That is unless you have some financial benefit which would occur if another competing technology, let's say fuel cell vehicles, were to become dominant. Or, unless you were for maintaining let's say our dependance on foriegn oil by promoting an alternative technology that will very likely never see the light of commerciality, say for instance fuel cell vehicles.


I think the Leaf and Nissan are also in trouble.

It is technology not yet ready for what we want of it.

But, unlike FCVs, it is close.

For hybrids, very close.

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