Chrysler is about to make its first foray into hybrid vehicles with the introduction next year of the 2008 Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs. Unlike some hybrid vehicles, however, these will not have a little 4 cylinder engine or even a V6, instead, these will be equipped with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.
Overall fuel efficiency is expected to improve by 25 percent while in city driving alone it will improve by an impressive 40 percent. The two-mode hybrid technology will feature an electric motor plus multi-displacement technology that can shut off 4 of the engine's 8 cylinders under certain conditions. The vehicles will be able to run with all electric power, V8 only or a combination of both. The non hybrid Hemi engine normally achieves 19 miles per gallon on the highway at best.
Hybrid technology like this can yield the economy many are looking for without sacrificing performance, but it isn't a simple add on. The Chrysler system was developed through a three-way partnership with General Motors and BMW. It will be interesting to see if aftermarket companies can come up with retrofit technology to adapt current gasoline only vehicles to some combination power system. As mentioned here before, if technically capable garage mechanics and hot rodders can jump into this area we could see the appearance of an entirely new branch of high performance. Will it happen? I certainly hope so.