The 'Brotherhood of Muscle' has found a way to keep combustion alive.
Manufacturers are currently undergoing a seismic shift in the way they engineer cars, as legislation has forced them to change from combustion to electrification across the world. But Dodge has always done things differently, and the company that brought us muscle cars like the Challenger SRT Hellcat and Demon has accepted that electrification would not suit its brand image. That's why the Detroit-based automaker has found a way around the forthcoming ban on gasoline-burning vehicles, as it has today announced plans for an 800-horsepower hydrogen-combustion muscle car that will replace the Hellcat in the automaker's lineup, to be called the SRT Hydra.
"The Hydra represents the next evolution of the muscle car without compromising our brand integrity," Ivan Tobrakfri, Director of Muscle Car Development at Dodge told CarBuzz. "The Hydra name is symbolic for us. While legislation may have cut the head off of our ICE-powered muscle cars, two more will grow back in its place. Muscle cars won't go down that easily."
The second 'head' Tobrakfri refers to is electrification. "We'll admit that the announcement of the electric muscle car lineup was a kneejerk reaction to the incoming legislation," he says, "but our engineers have been working hard to create a combustion engine that burns cleanly while still delivering the aural delight and emotional connection to a muscle car that our loyal supporters expect." He explains that electrification is needed, however. "In order to expand our product offering, electrification is a must, which is why we will have electric family SUVs. But, our muscle cars must be powered by combustion - this is non-negotiable."
As for what will power the SRT Hydra, Dodge has developed an evolution of the brand's supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that is capable of running on hydrogen, similar in principle to what Toyota and Yamaha have achieved with the hydrogen Lexus V8. "Hydrogen combustion development has come a long way," says Dr. Mohammad Powababi, Advanced Powertrain Development Chief at Dodge. "We've found ways of increasing the compression ratio, reducing the risk of knock, and improving the power density of hydrogen in liquid form, which has enabled us to unlock its full potential. In base form, we've extricated 800 horsepower."
Internally, Dr. Mo Powababi said the motor functions in much the same way as a conventional gas-powered V8. "Modifications did have to be made to the existing Hemi's cylinder heads, intake manifold, injectors, and several other components, but we found the supercharger made the power goals easily achievable. 800 hp is just the beginning."
As for when the new model will reach the market, the timeline is set for late 2023. "The technology is still in its relative infancy," says Tobrakfri, highlighting that government approval is the next step. "Lawmakers across the globe have pegged EVs as the only way forward, but we're currently engaging in discussions with them to show that there are other ways to create clean personal mobility."
Other manufacturers are beginning to pursue the same sort of technology, with Ford recently patenting a supercharged hydrogen engine of its own, while European automakers have teased concepts that run in a similar fashion. Dodge seems confident it can beat those other manufacturers to the punch, and in doing so, keep the muscle car alive for generations to come.