A Dodge executive says that the future of their muscle cars is in electrification.
There’s a trend in performance vehicles these days. While less expensive sports cars retain a simple combustion engine, high-end supercars are more frequently adopting hybrid powertrains. The Koenigsegg Regera, Ferrari SF90, and Aston Martin Valkyrie all have hybrid powertrains, while electric hypercars like the Nio EP9 and Rimac C_Two eschew combustion engines altogether.
One company that seems to be lagging behind on the electric future is Fiat Chrysler. A company that has long made it millions from big, large displacement engines, FCA will have to change as emissions regulations continue to ratchet up around the world.
Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger cars for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, knows this. That’s why he believes the future of Dodge is electric.
"I think the absolute future is electrification of these cars," Kuniskis told Automotive News at the unveiling of the Charger SRT Widebody two weeks ago. "That's not necessarily bad. It could be [battery electric], it could be [plug-in hybrid], it could be regular hybrid, could be e-axles, any one of the number of electric technologies. But I am a firm believer that electrification will be the key to high performance in the future."
The key barrier to electrifying powertrains has been price. Hybrids and their associated batteries are both heavy and expensive, making it difficult to ensure that the car they’re placed in maintains a high level of performance at a low price point.
"We don't have the price points of the batteries down to a place where, quite honestly, it's a mainstream proposition," Kuniskis said. "You do see it in the upper end. You see it in the new Ferrari that just came out, you saw it in the LaFerrari before that, you saw it in the 918, you saw it in the NSX. So there's absolutely a performance advantage to it, it's just a question of when the consumer acceptance is going to be for that. And I think it's going to be as soon as the price points come down, it becomes a mainstream viable option."
That said, supercars can do it, and fairly soon more conventional cars might be able to as well.
Autoblog notes that electrification is already happening in many FCA vehicle. Both the Ram 1500 and 2020 Jeep Wrangler will have e-Torque mild hybrid systems available, and the new ZF 8-speed automatic transmission that FCA recently acquired will come with a small electric motor built into the gearbox.
These are baby steps, but FCA will have to take much larger ones to keep up with the world’s race towards electric powertrains.