DaimlerChrysler has announced that it will start offering the Dodge Durango with a hybrid powertrain in 2003. The company expects that up to 15 percent of total Durango volume will be equipped with the new gasoline-electric propulsion system. The hybrid Dodge Durango SUV, with patented through-the-road powertrain technology, gives consumers the option of an environmentally- friendly vehicle that continues to provide the performance, size and utility suited for the U.S. market.

"You can get V-8 power out of a V-6 while burning much less fuel," said Bernard Robertson, DaimlerChrysler Senior Vice President - Engineering Technologies and General Manager - Truck Operations. "It's exactly what people want -- to be able to have a positive impact on the environment without having to pay for it. And we are doing this with a sport-utility vehicle, one of the most popular segments of the market today."

Federal legislation introduced by Senator William Roth (R-DE), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to create up to $3,000 in tax incentives for purchasers of hybrid vehicles could make the Durango hybrid cost competitive with its gasoline-powered counterpart.

The hybrid Durango combines two separate propulsion systems: a 3.9-liter, V-6 engine with automatic transmission that powers the rear wheels, and a three-phase, AC induction electric motor that drives the front wheels. The electric motor assists the gasoline engine during acceleration, and recaptures energy normally lost during deceleration.

The combination provides the power, acceleration and performance of a conventional V-8 engine. In fact, it is quicker than a 5.9-liter V-8-powered Durango from 0-60 miles per hour.

The hybrid powertrain yields a 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency, achieving 18.6 miles per gallon combined city/highway, compared with 15.5 miles per gallon for the conventional V-8 Durango. The application of fuel- saving hybrid technology in a popular sport-utility vehicle results in greater overall savings in fuel consumption than the same technology applied to a smaller passenger car.

"This has the potential of saving hybrid Durango owners nearly five million gallons of gas a year, in the aggregate," Robertson noted. In addition, the improved fuel efficiency results in reduced emissions of carbon dioxide.

Passengers also enjoy a quieter, smoother ride, with no sacrifices in comfort or equipment options, although trailer tow capability is reduced.

The gains in fuel efficiency result in part from the downsizing of components in the hybrid vehicle. A smaller engine can be used, permitting use of smaller related components, including catalytic converter, fan and fan clutch, radiator, and drive shaft. The improved fuel efficiency, in turn, permits use of a smaller fuel tank (20 gallons vs. 25 gallons).

With the performance provided by the gas-electric hybrid, the Durango can be adapted for the U.S. and European markets to meet consumers' differing demands for fuel efficiency, lower emissions and performance.

DaimlerChrysler has been a leader in the development of vehicles demonstrating hybrid technology, including the ESX, ESX2 and ESX3 concept cars with mild hybrid, or "mybrid" powertrain technology, and the Chrysler Citadel, the first concept vehicle to implement DaimlerChrysler's patented through-the- road technology.

"Consumers are in love with the size, safety, comfort and versatility of the sport-utility vehicle. To offer them an affordable SUV that is also more fuel efficient and lower in emissions would have a major impact on our national oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions," said Robertson.