Hybrid Minivan in the Near Future

Reader Contribution by Bradley Berman
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I am really interested in a hybrid or electric car, but I need something large enough to transport the whole family. Why aren’t there any hybrid or electric minivans?

There isn’t an all-electric or gasoline-electric hybrid minivan available in the United States. That’s been frustrating to North American families who want a vehicle with great gas mileage and three rows of seats, plus plenty of room for cargo.

The Toyota Estima hybrid minivan, which satisfies some of those desires, was introduced in Japan more than a decade ago. But apparently the bean-counters at car companies look at minivans’ relatively small slice of the U.S. automotive market — ditto for hybrids — and see a hybrid minivan as a risky proposition. Besides, the few European and Asian seven-seaters are quite a bit smaller than American minivans. Common wisdom suggests that North Americans won’t squeeze in (or dispense with creature comforts such as a gazillion cup holders, each capable of handling a Big Gulp).

At the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said the company would add a hybrid minivan to its lineup as early as 2013, but news of progress since has been scant. Some journalists characterize Nissan’s e-NV200 concept as an electric minivan (see more in Best Fuel-Efficient Cars by Each Automaker, Now and Later), but a three-row configuration is only a remote possibility. The Ford C-Max Hybrid, which seats five and will go on sale later this year, looks too small to qualify as a minivan.

So, at this point, large families who want a hybrid will have to settle for an SUV with seven seats such as the Toyota Highlander Hybrid (28 mpg) or Ford’s Escape Hybrid (34 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway). A great option for medium-sized families is the new Prius V (42 mpg), a roomy wagon with fold-down back seats for extra cargo. The V stands for versatile, and this new version of the popular Prius seats five, with 34.3 cubic feet of cargo room.

— Bradley Berman, Founder HybridCars.comand PluginCars.com

Image courtesy Ford