A redesigned vehicle always provides an opportunity for new or revised features, including the power electronics. Chrysler's Town and Country minivan boasts new seating and storage features but electronics are among the listed features and unlisted improvements. The electrical/electronic features on the 2008 include SIRIUS backseat TV satellite streaming video and SIRIUS satellite radio, high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, the MyGIG multimedia infotainment system with real-time traffic and navigation, ParkView rear back-up camera, electronic stability program with traction control and brake assist, a one-touch power third-row folding seat, and more.
Since it invented the minivan, Chrysler is proud of its firsts for that vehicle class. In the 2008 models, the electronic firsts for minivans include:
- a removable, two-part sliding front console with power outlet;
- dual A/V jacks, 115 V inverter and 12 V power outlet in the C-pillar;
- a dual DVD system that can play different media at the same time;
- a removable, rechargeable LED flashlight; and
- first- and second-row heated seats in cloth or leather.
Perhaps three of the more unusual power electronics items on the 2008 minivans are the ambient halo lighting, moveable LED pinpoint lights, and dual DVD entertainment system that can play different media at the same time.
The halo lighting system has a hardwire output from the instrument cluster and is not on the control area network (CAN) bus. However, the Town & Country takes advantage of the CAN bus to provide a by-wire start function. Called Tip Start, simply turning the ignition key to the start position activates a number of functions including starting the vehicle without holding the key in the start position.
Putting the pedal to the metal is easier for drivers of various sizes based on power-adjustable pedals. However, some of the real power loads unique to minivan class vehicles occur in the power sliding passenger doors and power liftgate. Based on the power level, the control modules for these motors use relays and MOSFET technology. The side door motor draws 10 to 40 amps (peak) and the liftgate motor draws 20 to 50 amps (peak) on the liftgate. It takes more current to close the liftgate than to open it since the closing action has to overcome the force of the hydraulic lifts.
Based on the increased electrical and electronic features, Chrysler conducted a total vehicle load survey to find ways to reduce the power consumption and increase fuel economy and, in the process, made some rather interesting observations. For one, engineers found that an older DVD player drew more power than the seat heaters. In another case, the intermittent mode of the windshield wipers could be modified to reduce power consumption.
Lighting was another area for improvement. “We've found that the use of LED lighting reduces overall electrical system loads, thereby increasing fuel economy,” said Gary Glanert, senior engineer, Driver Information Systems Integration, Chrysler LLC. “Also, LEDs are much more reliable and provide an added value to our customers.”