FCA officials have made it clear that we will see more hybrid models in the future and with the company’s latest contract with German transmission giant ZF, it looks as though rear-drive-based vehicles will eventually gain electric assistance. FCA recently worked out a contract with ZF to order a large number of next generation 8HP automatic transmissions and unlike the 8HP gearboxes currently in use in the various Dodge, Chrysler and Ram vehicles, the next ZF 8HP will be hybrid-ready.


 

Unless this is the first time that you are ready about the automotive future, you know that more and more vehicles are gaining hybrid assistance. While FCA dabbled with hybrid technology in the past with unsuccessful models like the Dodge Durango, the Chrysler Group brands are a bit late to the hybrid party when compared to many Japanese, European and even American automakers.

However, FCA officials have made it clear that they are working on introducing more hybrid models to their various brands. The first was the Pacifica, followed by the new Ram 1500 and the new Jeep Wrangler with the eTorque system, but it is expected that the next generation large cars, such as the Dodge Charger, the Dodge Challenger and – if it lives on – the Chrysler 300, will soon get hybrid support as well. Based on the early success of the Ram’s eTorque system, many people expected to see the system that Ram is using on the 5.7-liter Hemi, but with this new deal with ZF, it looks like the future FCA hybrids will take a very different approach to hybrid integration.

2019 Ram 1500 V6 hybrid

The eTorque system in the Ram 1500 and Jeep Wrangler employ a small electric motor that is connected to the front of the engine, providing power to the crankshaft at points of low torque from the gasoline engine. For comparison, most popular hybrid models in the United States have an electric motor that is attached to the transmission, so the electric power is supplied directly to the transmission rather than to the front of the engine. The “problem” for FCA is that their current portfolio of transmissions – particularly those which are rear-wheel-drive-based – aren’t hybrid ready. The current 8HP automatic transmission that is used in all of the rear-drive FCA vehicles wasn’t designed for hybrid electric assist, so when developing the eTorque system, the engineers found a way to add electrification without altering the transmission.

On the other hand, the next generation ZF 8HP automatic transmissions are being designed for easy electric integration, meaning that the vehicles running those upcoming gearboxes will essentially be hybrid-ready. This will allow FCA to offer a similar hybrid setup to the rest of the popular electric-assisted models in the US market rather than the unique eTorque system.

This means that when the next generation Dodge Charger and Challenger arrive, they will have a transmission that is hybrid-ready, but this doesn’t mean that every single rear-drive car will be a hybrid. Some outlets are reporting this as though a hybrid-ready transmission guarantees the end of the high performance Mopars, but that probably isn’t the case. We are almost guaranteed to see a hybrid Charger and Challenger, but it is highly unlikely that the introduction of hybrid models means the end of the performance models that we all know and love.


In fact, with the hybrid system being mounted on the transmission, there is no reason that the Scat Pack and Hellcat trim levels couldn’t pack monster power and electrification. In the long run, the goal is to continuously improve fuel economy throughout the fleet and adding hybrid assist to the most powerful and less fuel-efficient models would help preserve the big-power packages while also improving the company’s overall fuel economy numbers.

Most importantly, ZF doesn’t expect the next generation 8HP to be ready until at least 2022, so it is going to be a few more years until we see the hybrid-ready transmission in the big Dodge cars. If we had to guess, we would expect to see the hybrid transmissions debut in the next generation of the Charger and Challenger, as well as the larger Jeep models, including the Grand Cherokee and the upcoming Wagoneer.