Have you heard the news? Over the next few years, the auto industry is going to be disrupted for many competitors already invested in alternative fuel and automation. Automakers like Kia and Chevrolet have already made big strides with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicle technologies. Now joining the race is the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Group, also known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, having recently announced five year plans for many of their brands, some of which will be breaking out into the alternative fuel market for the first time. Can you imagine a 100 percent electric Jeep Wrangler?
Where Did It All Start?
The very first hybrid vehicle dates back to 1975 when Augustus Kinzel published a prototype of a Series Hybrid Vehicle, also known as a vehicle that required the driver to pedal to power a generator that charges the battery or converts power into the motor to deliver torque. Back then, getting around by walking, cycling, or a horse-drawn carriage was the norm, so it wasn’t unthinkable that would-be travelers would need to help power the power source.
Jump forward to 1997, and the Toyota Prius was launched in Japan, followed by the Honda Insight in 1999 in the United States and Japan. These were the first hybrid electric vehicles that became widely known across the globe, but they were mainly known to be popular because celebrities who had an interest in saving the planet drove them. Not many drivers would see the average consumer in a hybrid vehicle anytime soon.
Some would say Tesla Incorporated, with the production of the Tesla Roadster in 2008, would be the best representation of an idea that was already being kicked around but hadn’t been successfully executed. Ever since Tesla Inc. made a name for itself, automakers from all over the world have been popping up with their own take on hybrid, electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Not all of these were very successful, however, like the Nissan Leaf or the Fiat 500e.
There Is Budding Success
Over the last few years, the alternative fuel market has seen a boom in the production of alternative fuel vehicles. Chrysler has the Pacifica Hybrid, Chevrolet has the Volt and Bolt EV, and Kia produces another hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle every year with a current lineup of the Kia Niro hybrid crossover, Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid, Kia Soul EV, and the upcoming Kia Niro Electric model and Kia Telluride electric SUV. There has certainly been a shift, and that’s not all. Now with the FCA Group getting in on the trend, we’re going to see more.
FCA recently debuted their 48-volt mild-hybrid system known as the eTorque, found as an option in the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL, 2019 Jeep Cherokee, and 2019 Ram 1500. Able to mimic hybrid capabilities, such as auto stop/start, electric power assist, extended fuel shut-off, transmission shift management, intelligent battery charging, and regenerative braking, the eTorque system can also substitute other power sources and produce additional torque. But that’s only the beginning.
The FCA Group says it will be adding several new alternative fuel vehicles by 2022, including a new version of the 500e, new SUVs from Jeep, an updated Maserati Quattroporte sedan, the new Maserati Alfieri coupe, hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and even full battery electrification for a few models. An all-electric version of the Jeep Wrangler is already on the table, as well as an electrified variant of every Jeep model in the lineup. We’ve already seen the kind of success the FCA Group can achieve with the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid in disguise as a minivan.
“If FCA uses the same plug-in hybrid system we experienced in our Pacifica PHEV, that’s a good thing … A Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV seems like a no-brainer, utilizing that technology in a more popular model.” – Gabe Shenhar, Auto engineer, tester, driving enthusiast, journalist & consumer advocate.
Then of course, there’s the self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV, already found to be a better driver than humans. Rumored to go into production in a few years, the autonomous Chevy Bolt EV has nothing on the Google Waymo Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid fleet. Made up of over 60,000 modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid units, the Google Waymo is the first large step for the FCA Group to explore new mobility solutions. The first of its kind, the Google Waymo was also recently certified as the first autonomous self-driving transportation network in Phoenix, Arizona. Soon, a ride hailing app akin to Uber will be made available by Google for consumers in participating areas to hail a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid to pick them up and drive them to a destination.
It’s really something. The auto industry has been on an electric tilt for years now. Once we come back right side up, who knows what kind of market we’ll see. Let us know your thoughts on NowCar social media. There are also plenty of alternative fuel vehicles to buy on NowCar.