The First Month With a Plug-In Pacifica Hybrid Minivan: 155 MPG

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Screen capture. Sami Grover

Check out the two screenshots of my gas gauge above. The first was taken on May 11th, when I reported in on my first week with the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan. The second was taken today, just before I filled up the gas tank for the first time.

It turns out we've driven 910 total miles, and I just had to put 5.85 gallons of gas in the tank. According to my (admittedly numerically illiterate) calculations, that makes for a pretty decent 155 MPG. Not bad for a seven seater minivan that can haul a whole bunch of stuff.

Of course, plug-in hybrids are an entirely different beast to either pure electric, or regular gas or hybrid vehicles. So reporting just the gas consumption is somewhat misleading—the reason we are achieving such excellent efficiency numbers is that 779 of those 910 miles used absolutely no gas at all. According to the app that comes with the van, only 131 miles were driven in "hybrid mode"—either when the around town electric range was entirely used up, or when we needed a little more power to merge onto the highway or otherwise pick up a little speed. Still, given the inherent efficiency of electric motors and the fact that a growing number of us have the option to either install solar or buy renewable energy, I'd say that plug-in cars like this have a the potential to significantly move the needle in terms of both our oil dependency and our carbon emissions.

In terms of all electric driving, I've now had the opportunity to completely drain the battery on several occasions, and I;m seeing somewhere between 30 and 35 miles of range—even at moderate highway speeds. According to David Galvan's suggested math in the comments on my previous review, 1 gallon of gas contains about 33 kWh of energy. So for the sake of simplicity, let's say that draining the 16 kWh battery is the energy equivalent to half a gallon of gas—meaning that electric miles equate to something like 60 to 70 MPGe, no? (Somebody with more math brain correct me if I am wrong.)

Pacifica Hybrid photo

Sami Grover/CC BY 2.0

I have yet to take it on a proper road trip, so it's a little hard to report on highway MPGs, but I suspect they'll be considerably less impressive. Indeed, dividing the 131 hybrid miles driven by the 5.85 gallons used, it's looking like we only get a disappointing 22.4 MPG when the electric motor is being sidelined. It's hard to tell how much of this relative inefficiency is a function of gas kicking in for short spurts of acceleration when merging onto the highway. I'll report back once I know how that translates to longer, hybrid-only road trip distances.

That's all I have to report for now. In terms of customer satisfaction, I have no complaints with the car itself—it's fancy, it's comfortable, and tricked out with all kinds of fun creature comforts. You can check out some more conventional automotive journalists for all that stuff. It's worth noting that I have heard rumors of a delivery hold, with some drivers reporting technical difficulties. It's hard to give information on this without an official announcement from Chrysler, but anyone in the market for one may want to both talk to their dealer AND check out the internet grapevine for more information.

Of course, it goes without saying that our cities would be nicer if there were fewer tanks on the road. But if you are in the market for a 3rd row car, and you can't afford a Tesla Model X, it's pretty cool that you can buy one that will use less gas than a Toyota Prius.

Let me know if you have questions. I'd be happy to try to answer them.