Long-time Chrysler engineer Bob Lee, now head of powertrain integration for Fiat Chrysler (FCA), discussed FCA’s powertrain plans and challenges. He started by pointing out that carbon dioxide rules will be getting tighter through 2025 — and that the rules correspond with customer preferences.

In the United States, Chrysler had to purchase CO2 credits, due to their model mix — in particular the high sales of Rams relative to fuel-efficient cars. Chrysler will need higher sales of cars like Dart, Chrysler 100 and 200, and the upcoming hybrid minivans to counter increasing Ram sales; though the high mileage of the Ram 1500 diesel may be helping.

Some ways the company is dealing with this are:
  • Efficient axles with driveline disconnection for AWD
  • Wide-ratio transmissions
  • More efficient engines
  • Advanced technologies and alternative fuels
  • Thermal management including intelligent thermostats, waste heat recovery, etc.
  • Electric and hybrid systems

For now, he said, the best bank for the buck was to be found in transmissions and advanced engines, along with stop-start systems and electric power steering. When it comes to fuel consumption, diesel provides around the same “bang for the buck” as natural gas and hybrid technology, but does less for carbon dioxide emission.

More than three million Pentastar engines have been made over the last four years. Mr. Lee promised more consolidation and improvement on large and specialty engines, saying that the technologies and benefits will be more substantial than cylinder deactivation was in 2003.

A new portfolio of small gasoline engines (which we understand are being developed primarily by Fiat) will share cylinder geometry and combustion systems for higher efficiency.  It will include an integrated water/air charge cooler and exhaust manifold, low-friction chain drive, belt starter-generator for stop-start, variable-displacement oil pump, lightweight crank, aluminum block, MultiAir valvetrain, direct fuel injection, low-friction roller cam, variable-flow water pump, cooled EGR, and twin-scroll turbocharger. (Most of these technologies have also been rumored for the 2-liter Chrysler Hurricane four-cylinder).

Summarizing, Mr. Lee reiterated the company’s position that it will continue to expand diesel and build on CNG where the latter is supported; that customers are increasingly demanding lower-CO2-emission vehicles; that engine displacements are falling; and that electrification has been overblown, but that they will still build a plug-in hybrid minivan in 2016, followed by several mild hybrids.