Dodge will reveal its first all-electric muscle car early next year, and that will mark the beginning of the end for the brand’s focus on big displacement V8s. The iconic Hellcat engine is set to go out of production by 2024, according to the Dodge chief executive.
Internal combustion engines won’t vanish entirely from the brand’s lineup, but the automaker will shift to hybrid technology and eventually go all-electric, in line with sibling brands owned by global mega-manufacturer Stellantis.
The shift shouldn’t come as a surprise. Under President Joe Biden, the U.S. is on a path to have 40-50% of all new vehicles go electric by 2030. Even before then, it would become increasingly difficult to meet new emissions and fuel economy regulations with conventional powertrains like the Hellcat engine.
In Good Company
And Dodge is by no means alone, as even ultraexotic performance brands like Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Lamborghini have outlined plans to shift to hybrids and all-electric models in the coming decade.
Rumors of an all-electric Dodge muscle car began circulating early this year, the brand confirming that plan in July and adding more details when it announced its “Never Lift” strategy earlier this month.
But Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis now says the electric muscle car is just part of a broader change of direction. Shortly after revealing that battery-electric vehicle, the brand will introduce its first-ever plug-in hybrid, Kuniskis told Motor Trend, with a third “significant” vehicle to follow.
For Dodge fans, however, the biggest news — and, potentially, the biggest disappointment — comes with the plan to pull the Hellcat out of production. Several versions of the supercharged V8 are currently in production for use in three Dodge models: the Challenger coupe, the Charger sedan, and the Durango SUV. The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye makes 797 horsepower and 707 pound-feet of torque.
Holding Back on Details
The brand has not provided much insight on what will replace the Hellcat, but it shouldn’t prove difficult to match its basic numbers with an electric drive system. The new Lucid Air Dream Performance edition turns out 1,133 horsepower, while the Tesla Model S Plaid maxes out at 1,020 horsepower.
Both products deliver launch times of around 2 seconds — making them even faster off the line than the limited-run Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Demon, the drag strip-focused muscle car of a few years back.
It is unclear what the new Dodge muscle car will be named, though Kuniskis has suggested to GearJunkie that the brand doesn’t plan to give up on the Challenger and Charger nameplates.
Whatever it’s called, the all-electric muscle car will ride on the new STLA Large architecture announced by parent Stellantis earlier this year. It’s a skateboard-like platform mounting that its motors and battery pack below the load floor.
That approach frees up space normally devoted to an engine compartment for passengers and cargo. It also will yield a lower center of gravity than a Hellcat-powered model.
Dodge engineers face a number of challenges in developing the electric muscle car. Cooling will be nearly as important as with a V8 model. Electric motors and batteries can develop plenty of heat when driven hard, and that can limit how long they can operate flat out.
Range is another issue. Sources have indicated that Dodge wants to deliver as much as 500 miles per charge — a figure which would drop sharply under aggressive driving.
No Durango Plug-In
As for the planned plug-in hybrid, Dodge is not yet saying which product line will get the new drivetrain. Two sibling brands already offer PHEVs: Chrysler with the Pacifica Hybrid minivan, and Jeep with the Wrangler 4xe. But neither is designed to emphasize performance, something that the Dodge plug-in is expected to put first and foremost.
There has been speculation that the Durango would get the new Dodge PHEV drivetrain. While Kuniskis declined to offer specific details, he did appear to rule that out.
The good news about switching to battery power is that electric motors deliver extreme levels of low-end torque, in line with what performance and muscle car fans typically crave.
Mean and Green
That has led to growing interest in electrified technology by most manufacturers, both mainstream and exotic. The sportiest version of the Honda CR-V is now a hybrid.
And with its recent sale to Croatia’s Remec, future Bugatti models are expected to go all-electric. Lamborghini recently announced it will phase out its familiar V-12s and migrate to hybrids. It also has plans to bring at least three all-electric models to market.
For its part, Dodge plans a big send-off for the Hellcat. It has announced new “Jailbreak” models for the Charger and Challenger lines for 2022. Buyers will be able to mix and match a wide variety of option combinations, such as paint colors, seats, mats, and even steering wheels.
Under the Never Lift plan, the brand also is setting up a limited number of “Power Broker” dealers who will sell and service the brand’s top-performance models. It’s also reviving Dodge Direct Connection performance kits for upgrading models already on the road.
The muscle car is not dead, but that throaty V8 growl from a Hellcat under the hood is soon to be in the rearview as the electric muscle car era takes off.