Life With a Plug-In Pacifica Hybrid Minivan: Five Month Update

©. Sami Grover

We already know the fuel economy is good. But it saves money in other ways too...

Back in May of this year, my family took delivery of a plug-in hybrid Chrysler Pacifica minivan. And while I have spent some time exorcizing my guilt around the sheer size of this tank, the 155mpg around town mileage (this doesn't include electric-only miles!) quickly had me feeling that for my family, at this time, in this town, this was the right choice for us.

That's since been confirmed on not one, but two, roadtrips in which we were regularly achieving 32mpg—even with the battery fully depleted—and we were also able to plug in at our various destinations to enjoy electric-only driving for our local journeys.

But I figured it was time for an update. So here are a few other things we've learned since my last post on this topic:

Mileage is still great.
As you can tell from the stats posted above, the van is spending the majority of its time in electric-only mode. With just over 6,000 miles under our belts, 3,678 of them have been on battery power alone. Furthermore, of the 2,447 miles in hybrid mode, more than 1,500 of them would have been incurred on a round-trip from Durham, NC, to Toronto, and another 750 or so were racked up with shorter roadtrips to Morganton/Asheville and Wilmington/Carolina Beach, NC. That means we've probably done around 200 miles or so in hybrid mode during our daily commutes and errands.

It's just one more reminder that until longer range, fully electric vehicles start coming in a wider range of body styles and prices, plug-in hybrids with 30+ miles of range could still significantly reduce oil demand in day-to-day transportation. (Remember: The Pacifica assigns some form of mpg equivalent to electric miles. So the 54.6mpg listed above is a combination of electric-only and hybrid-mode miles. Gasoline consumption alone will be significantly better than 54.6mpg.)

Oil changes are less of a concern.
Speaking of oil demand... The other benefit, which I hadn't really spent much time thinking about until we bought the van, is that we should enjoy significantly lower maintenance costs too. Specifically, in the stats above you'll see we've still got 75% of our oil life left—and we haven't had an oil change after 6,000 miles of driving. Now, it does seem that conventional wisdom has moved on from the old blanket "new oil every 3,000 miles" commandments, so it's possible that Chrysler's app is taking that into account, but Chrysler says it also adjusts according to driving style. I'll be willing to bet that the electric only miles, especially in stop-and-go around town driving, should play a big role in reducing oil changes, engine wear and other major maintenance.

Sales and deliveries have resumed.
As many commenters to my original reviews noted, the van may be a hit with those who have gotten to drive it, but launch has been somewhat of a mess. Starting with a lack of clarity and communication about when pre-orders would be delivered, moving on to a stop in deliveries and a recall of a significant chunk of vans, and compounding things with an offer of a free charging station for early purchasers as an apology for delays, which was then followed by months of radio silence about when that station would be delivered—it's fair to say that Chrysler's outward facing communications efforts have not exactly covered themselves with glory.

That said, my charging station did finally arrive. And Green Car Reports tells us that deliveries have resumed and the van is back on sale—with all new sales carrying a 2018 model year. I have yet to hear anything from Chrysler about my particular van, so I am assuming it probably is not affected, but it's good to hear this is finally being straightened out.

So overall, this continues to be a great choice for families wanting to significantly reduce their gas consumption while still enjoying the benefits of oversized American car culture. Yes, one day we'll hopefully have access to these on-demand, so we don't need a tank in every driveway; but until then, it's fair to say that Chrysler has offered something genuinely new and significantly greener in the much maligned minivan segment. Hopefully, folks will now be able to start actually buying it...

One more thing that I've said before: While much of my writing about the Pacifica eHybrid has been, and most likely will be, positive, it would be negligent of me not to mention that Chrysler, like most major car makers, has been actively lobbying to weaken fuel efficiency standards. Do with that information what you will.