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Fiat Chrysler CTO: Fuel cells are the distant future

2013 Fiat 500e

Fiat Chrysler is the automaker that EVangelists love to hate. The brand has nary a hybrid in its lineup (although a plug-in powertrain for the Town & Country minivan is expected to appear in 2016), and, like some evil stepmother in a fairy tale, CEO Sergio Marchionne heaps derision on the feisty little Fiat 500e, famously asking consumers not to buy it.

True to form, FCA Chief Technology Officer Harald Wester made some colorful comments about batteries and fuel cells in a recent interview with Motor Trend (via Green Car Reports).

Most of the interview was about Maserati, which, like all the high-performance brands, is having to get creative in order to comply with tightening emissions standards around the world. Mr. Wester does not seem to care for the idea of downsizing the Maserati’s V6 and V8 engines.

“I don’t see us, for the time being, selling four-cylinder Maseratis,” he said, but conceded that it might be necessary in the future, because of stricter regulations and/or higher fuel prices. “The only answer we would have would be a plug-in hybrid or a four-cylinder or even worse, a four-cylinder plug-in hybrid.”

Wester sees hybrid powertrains as only an intermediate solution. “The distant future is fuel cell,” he said. Asked if that meant in preference to batteries, he replied, “Absolutely. What the hell do you want with 400 kilos of battery driving around? No.”

“[A fuel cell drivetrain] can be made small,” said Wester. “You need to bring the fuel cells not only to a certain technical and performance level so that you can keep the buffer battery relatively low. You also need to bring it to an affordable economic level. But then it’s the future. The fuel cell should generate, in low energy demand situations, everything you need to run the vehicle, and in other situations you buffer what it can’t supply in the battery.”


Sources: Motor Trend, Green Car Reports

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