Why Dodge’s Decision to Electricize Mopar Muscle Cars Is a Great Decision

And why not reduce the challenges facing the North American electric car market by one iota

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If you are a fan of muscle cars, especially Mopar Muscle cars, the end will seem really close. Longtime leader of the genre – some might say ringleader – Dodge has announced that the long-running rebirth of the Challenger and the Charger is coming to an end. According to this week’s announcement from Stellantis, after the “last call” for 2023, there will be no more superchargers, no more Hemis, and to us most piston-and-plug fans, no full-size V8 has been found. The internally smoldering chaos—and how to describe the more than 800 horsepower of a supercharged V8 on a chassis that owes much of its pedigree to a Chrysler not a sporty 300 sedan—will be once again, as it did in the 1960s and early 1970s. A novelty for history books. Like previous muscle cars, the Demon and Hellcat have once again become victims of fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

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Of course, the traditionalists are awake. Not only are their beloved competitors and Chargers inundated, but – and that’s certainly the definition of paddling – Dodge plans to electrify its alternatives. Hearing the old and oily ones tell it, it really is the end of days.

Except it is not. Not hardly at all. If anything, electricity will likely be a muscle car rescue. In fact, to go further, there is no single class of vehicle – nor any brand more than Dodge – that is perfectly suited to electric.

Don’t buy that, right? Well, let’s see if I can put it up for you.

Let’s forget the Nissan Leafs, BMW i3s, and Chevy bolts that served as fuel for our electric dreams. The electric cars that grab all our attention—certainly the ones that grab all the “fold-over”, 48-point titles—share two things in common: They’re heavily overpowered, and they have huge batteries. In North America, 70 kWh is hardly enough. And we crossed the 100 kWh mark so fast that the head was spinning. Since each of those things in kilowatt-hours weigh about 5 or 6 kg, this means that the lightest of these batteries weighs almost 400 kg. Even taking into account the loss of the internal combustion engine and the required transmission, the recent wave of 100+ kWh from Tesla, Hummer and BMW is usually at least 1,000 pounds heavier than their internal combustion engine counterparts.

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This means that most of them treat like shit. Oh, the stiff suspension helps mitigate some of the BMW iX M60’s avoidance. And yes, the Porsche Taycan turns out to be a dream until all that Pirelli PZeros weight runs out. But overall, it seems that the monster electric vehicles we North Americans love aren’t quite as agile as their ICE counterparts.

But they are strong. Oh, are they strong. Tesla are faster than Ferraris, e-Trons with more torque than turbocharged engines, and Genesis with “Boost” buttons. Even the humble Ford SUVs would boast massive horsepower if their power source was lithium and its ions. If there’s anything in common with every electric car sold in North America — even some of the budget models I mentioned before — it’s that its direct acceleration belies the fact that its main attraction is supposed to save the planet from deadly greenhouse gases.

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Summing up all this, as far as I can see, typical electric cars are fat muscle cars, poor handling, overly stressful, and torquey tires being their main attraction. Which, if you’ll remember the main thesis of my waster title, describes pretty much every SRT Challenger or Charger ever sold. Hell, both are similarly useless on the highway. If engineering is the art of matching the technology you need, there has never been a fully electric-compatible segment of the North American muscle car and no brand is more willing to torque a BEV than the Dodge SRT.

However, there will be challenges. On the small scale, even SRT Dodges have a Tesla problem. The best of Silicon Valley—the improbably named Plaid Model S—fits in at 1,020 horsepower and a quarter-mile of 9.4 seconds. Compare that to the Challenger SRT Super Stock, which is somewhat similar to the drag racing class that it is named after Just manages, according to motor direction, a distance of 10.5 seconds. For the first electrified SRT muscle cars, the Daytona Banshee’s supercharger will be, according to the Stelantis, about as fast as the current Hellcat car, which — oh my goodness, how slow it is — means a quarter mile somewhere in the 11.9 region in the second quarter at 126 mph. That Tesla Plaid I mentioned earlier leads the quarter at 151 mph. In other words, to credibly call the new Mopar Muscle EVs, Dodge will need some serious moxie—I think 1,250 horsepower or more—if they are accepted as true Hellcats and Demons.

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This raises the problem of a macro scale. In all likelihood, all Mopars electrified cars will be just as expensive—if not more—than fossil-fuel “last calls” that will speed up the doors of a Dodge dealership. Like battery-powered offerings in North America, Stellantis’ first domestic electric effort is targeting the upper tier of the auto market. Even the Daytona Banshee Charger, if ever produced, would be much closer to $100,000 than a big $50 would be.

What makes all this so ironic is that Stellantis Europe just took second place in total battery electric vehicle sales, overtaking, believe it or not, the powerful Tesla. Only Volkswagen sells more BEVS in the EU and even then, despite all the hype surrounding VW and electrics, not much. That success is largely attributed to cost-conscious vehicles such as the Fiat 500 EV and the small Peugeot e-208. Both are, you might think, entry-level racers that barely pay the full MSRP for the battery on one of the upcoming SRT bars.

The paradox is compounded by the fact that no less than the chief manufacturing officer of Stellantis in Europe, Arnaud Dibov, recently told Bloomberg who – which Electric cars are still very expensive, she points out just last month, “If electric cars don’t get cheaper, the market will collapse.” According to Deboeuf, even in the European Union – where electricity already holds more than 20 percent of total sales – BEVs need 40 percent lower manufacturing cost if the plug-ins are actually to be received from ICE.

So yes, Dodge’s plan to electrify all of its powerful cars is great. But it does not solve anything.

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