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2017’s Top Ten Tech Cars: Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Energy efficiency today, robotic driving tomorrow

2 min read
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
An Exciting Minivan: Even in all-electric mode, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid gives superb performance and range while using energy efficiently.
Photo: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Surprisingly, there’s never been a hybrid minivan of any kind on the U.S. market. So, when Chrysler rolled out not only a hybrid minivan but a frugal plug-in model, it was a big deal.


194 kilowatts


84 mpge


32 mpg

This year’s Pacifica sheds 113 kilograms (250 pounds) thanks to a lightened platform, which includes aluminum sliding doors and an aluminum-and-magnesium lift gate, both featuring hands-free operation. The minivan’s 3.6-liter V-6 runs on the fuel-saving Atkinson cycle—as in hybrids like the Toyota Prius—and links to an ingenious twin electric-motor arrangement that can send as much as 194 kilowatts (260 horsepower) to the front wheels. A 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack with 96 cells is designed and built in Michigan and, together with related electronics, weighs in at 295 kg (650 lb) and stretches 75 centimeters (2.5 feet). It fits right in the receptacle where the Stow ’n Go seats disappear into the floor in the nonhybrid version. Many current hybrids use one electric motor-generator exclusively to recapture energy, another to provide propulsion, but the Chrysler innovates again: Its dual electric motors integrate an electronic clutch and planetary gearset. That allows both motors to act as traction motors, boosting the efficiency and scalability of the system.

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Video Friday: Humanoid Soccer

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
Humans and human-sized humanoid robots stand together on an indoor soccer field at the beginning of a game

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
ICRA 2023: 29 May–2 June 2023, LONDON

Enjoy today’s videos!

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Array of devices on a chip

This analog electrochemical memory (ECRAM) array provides a prototype for artificial synapses in AI training.

IBM research

How far away could be an artificial brain? Perhaps a very long way still, but a working analogue to the essential element of the brain’s networks, the synapse, appears closer at hand now.

That’s because a device that draws inspiration from batteries now appears surprisingly well suited to run artificial neural networks. Called electrochemical RAM (ECRAM), it is giving traditional transistor-based AI an unexpected run for its money—and is quickly moving toward the head of the pack in the race to develop the perfect artificial synapse. Researchers recently reported a string of advances at this week’s IEEE International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM 2022) and elsewhere, including ECRAM devices that use less energy, hold memory longer, and take up less space.

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Solving Automotive Design Challenges With Simulation

Learn about low-frequency electromagnetic simulations and see a live demonstration of COMSOL Multiphysics software

1 min read

The development of new hybrid and battery electric vehicles introduces numerous design challenges. Many of these challenges are static or low-frequency electromagnetic by nature, as the devices involved in such designs are much smaller than the operating wavelength. Examples include sensors (such as MEMS sensors), transformers, and motors. Many of these challenges include multiple physics. For instance, sensors activated by acoustic energy as well as heat transfer in electric motors and power electronics combine low-frequency electromagnetic simulations with acoustic and heat transfer simulations, respectively.

Multiphysics simulation makes it possible to account for such phenomena in designs and can provide design engineers with the tools needed for developing products more effectively and optimizing device performance.

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