If you had to choose two diametrically opposed elements of the automotive industry, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than pick the Dodge Challenger Hellcat and the very idea of hybrid or all-electric mobility. And yet a new report by The Detroit Bureau indicates that the 2020 model-year could see the birth of a strange crossbreed: a hybrid variant of the celebrated muscle car.
Not that this new creature would be a conventional hybrid-powered car, or one you could plug in to recharge. In fact, the Challenger Hellcat would receive a light-hybrid system like the one available with the Jeep Wrangler. This system would work in support of the gasoline engine in certain specific situations, which would improve fuel economy. Along the way, the Hellcat, not exactly starved for power, would get an additional 130 lb-ft of torque to play with.
Ears are suitably perking up at hearing that.
The move could be seen as surprising, but is it really? The FCA (ifat Chrysler Automobiles) Group recently confirmed it wanted to accelerate its expansion into electric mobility. The company has already said the next Fiat 500 would be electrified, and over at Alfa Romeo the plan id to offer hybrid systems in several models already on the market as well as in future products.
If a Challenger Hellcat using a light-hybrid system does see the light of day, it won’t be alone. FCA wants to be an industry leader in electrification over the next 12-to-18 months. It’s definitely talking the talk, but time will tell whether the company manages to walk the walk.
The head of powertrains as FCA, Micky Bly, did make an interesting revelation, to the effect that much of the impetus behind the move to electrification is due to pressure to be compliant with government regulations going forward. The executive said that demand for electrified vehicles remains weak, especially in the U.S., where the price of gasoline remains relatively low.
As far as it goes that statement is true, but things could change quickly. And if FCA is only taking action because it’s being forced to, can we take its ambitious talk at face value?
The next year will reveal much about whether FCA is serious about electrifying its products or is being dragged into the future against its will.