CHELSEA, Michigan – In 1983, Chrysler kick-started a brand-new segment when the first Dodge Caravan rolled off the production line. Inventing the minivan was a stroke of brilliance – not only fulfilling family transportation requirements with a vehicle expressly built for their needs, but almost certainly rescuing Chrysler from impending financial extinction.

The rest is history. Chrysler went on to dominate the segment they spearheaded with innovations like sliding doors and Stow ’n’ Go seat storage – and the ease with which its front-wheel-drive, car-based platform won over the driving public helped pave the way for future crossover development.

Debuting early this year as a 2017, the Pacifica resurrects a badge previously used on one of the company’s older crossovers, and replaces the venerable Town & Country.

And now, Fiat-Chrysler introduces another milestone: their first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, and the North American market’s very first hybrid minivan.

And thanks to an $85.8 million investment from the province’s Jobs and Prosperity Fund, when the Pacifica Hybrid begins production later this year, it will be built in Windsor, Ontario.

This isn’t FCA’s first kick at the PHEV cat – they’d produced a limited number of hybrid vans and trucks in partnership with Daimler, BMW and General Motors and an electrified version of the popular Fiat 500, available only in California.

We got a sneak-peak at the newest Pacifica at Chrysler’s Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan, but unfortunately we weren’t able to drive it – yet.

Aside from the charge port on the front left fender, differentiating the Pacifica Hybrid from the conventional model are its unique Teal Pearl paint and interior colours and hybrid specific grill and aerodynamic wheel designs. Curiously, there’s no mention of the vehicle’s plug-in capability, it’s badged merely “hybrid”.

Using a system of two electric motors and lithium battery storage pack with a conventional gasoline engine for backup, the Pacifica Hybrid has a combined range of over 850 km. But it’s capable of travelling 48 km purely on electric power.

The 16 kW lithium-ion battery cells, modules and packs are manufactured by LG Chem in Holland, Michigan.

In case you missed it: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, Everything you need to know

“One of the key things we’re working on with LG Chem is our battery,” said John Gibson, Chief Engineer for Chrysler’s Electrified Powertrain Programs.

“We’ve designed our own internal transmission at FCA that will allow us to do 48 km of all-electric drive. Then, when we run out of battery, we transition to hybrid mode and the engine will come on and sustain and we’ll get another 805 km of range with the gas engine.”

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