AUBURN HILLS, MI --- Chrysler LLC's Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) began rolling off the assembly line last week at its Newark, Del., assembly plant.

Chrysler is offering the two-mode hybrid powertrain on both vehicles built at the plant, Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen. Cross-functional launch teams conducted computer simulation of new assembly processes. Similar efforts were conducted at tooling suppliers.

"The implementation of this new manufacturing process was done intelligently, with both quality and cost in mind," said Joe Ozdowy, plant manager of Newark Assembly. "I'd like to congratulate and thank the team for their dedication while bringing these important new products to market to help satisfy the changing needs of our Dodge and Chrysler customers."

The production of early pilot vehicles was done on the plant's assembly line which helped to root out anomalies early in the pre-production process. Production of vehicles with the hybrid powertrain differs in several ways from production of those with conventional powertrains. New processes were implemented to accommodate HEV production, including a unique powertrain assembly process, and ergonomic-assist systems to aid in new functions, such as HEV battery installation.

There are several unique components associated with HEV production that are installed at the plant, including:

-- 300-volt battery

-- Two-mode transmission

-- Torque power inverter module (TPIM)

-- Electric air conditioning

-- Auxiliary power module

-- High-voltage cables (AC and DC)

-- Hydro-electric power steering pump

-- Hybrid gate way module

-- Cooling module.

With the advent of HEV production, a new series of error-proofing processes was put in place.

"We are proud of the highly skilled and dedicated employees at Chrysler's Newark plant," Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner said. "The employees at Newark Assembly continue to work hard to ensure the success of this new product line, and we are looking forward to these new hybrid vehicles being available to the public."

Chrysler LLC's advanced two-mode full hybrid system -- developed in partnership with General Motors, Daimler and the BMW Group -- integrates proven automatic-transmission technology with a patented hybrid-electric drive system to deliver two-mode full hybrid.

As a result of low- and high-speed electrically variable transmission (EVT) modes, the system is defined as a "two-mode hybrid." In addition, the sophisticated fuel-saving system incorporates four fixed-gear ratios for high efficiency and power-handling capabilities. During the two EVT modes, the system can use the electric motors to improve fuel economy, acceleration, and for regenerative braking to use energy that would normally be lost during braking or deceleration. The energy is stored in the batteries for later use.

The system's two modes are optimized for city and highway driving. In the first mode -- at low speed and with light loads -- the vehicle can operate in three ways: electric power only, engine power only, or any combination of engine and electric power.

The two-mode hybrid provides all of the fuel-saving benefits of a full-hybrid system, including electric-only operation. In this mode, the engine is "shut off," with the vehicle moving under electric-only power at low speed. The result is a significant reduction in fuel consumption in heavy stop-and-go traffic. 

The second mode is used primarily at highway speeds. In addition to electric assist, the second mode provides full power from the engine when conditions demand it, such as when passing, pulling a trailer or climbing a steep grade.