Alfa Romeo is considering jumping on the hybrid bandwagon by incorporating 48-volt ‘mild hybrid’ technology into its long-proposed J-segment (full-size) SUV.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which is languishing behind the opposition in both electric and hybrid production technology, could use the new 48-volt mild hybrid to get itself in the game. Research body, IHS Automotive, estimates that one in ten cars and fifty percent on all hybrid models will feature ‘mild hybrid’ technology by 2025.
Mild Hybrid with 48 volt battery and e-turbo is regarded as a quick fix that allows manufacturers to introduce hybrid technology to existing architectures without all the cost of major re-engineering.
It offers a significant improvement in torque as well as improved fuel economy over pure internal combustion engine models, meaning it is a stepping stone to conventional 12-volt stop/start hybrid technology. It’s also regarded as a good route to introduce more hesitant consumers to hybrid.
For Alfa Romeo, which is currently without any electric or hybrid options across its range, it could prove a cost-effective opportunity, according to Alfa Romeo Chief Technical Officer Roberto Fedeli. In a recent interview with the U.K.'s Auto Express magazine, he was quoted as saying: “The Stelvio for sure is an example of Alfa DNA, why don’t we translate that in a car which is a little bit bigger?”
The Stelvio offers a robust platform to work from and has been reasonably well received since it debuted last year, where it takes on other mid-size SUV rivals such as Porsche’s Macan, Jaguar’s F-Pace, Audi’s Q5 and BMW’s X3.
Since deliveries got underway in Europe last March the Stelvio was expected to have reached around 16,000 units by the end of the year, while it has so far totted up 2,700 sales in the U.S. where it started reaching consumers last July.
Pushing into J-segment would see Alfa Romeo go up against a rapidly growing category of contenders, led by VW Group’s brands in the shape of the Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q8, and Lamborghini Urus, all of which are spun off the same MLB architecture. Other direct rivals would include Mercedes-Benz’s M-Class, Land Rover’s Discovery, the Range Rover Sport and Volvo’s XC90.
Fedeli is also quoted as saying: “We have to marry the new car with the right level of electrification. Plug-in hybrid could be a problem for the Alfa DNA point of view, but for instance a 48-volt mild hybrid solution is something that we can do without losing anything.”
Fedeli notes they have been simulating this scenario and the result has been acceptable. “I’m quite happy about the result we have obtained coupling a four-cylinder with the 48-volt e-turbo,” he said. “I think next time we can also use it in production. With a 2-litre turbo engine you can achieve around 350 to 400 bhp. We are driving on a simulator a car like that, we are working on it, and the result is not so bad,” he added.
Extracting 350-400 bhp from the Stelvio’s engine, thanks to the incorporation of mild hybrid technology, would place Alfa Romeo ahead of the equivalent J-segment SUVs with similar forced induction 2.0-litre power units – and still with a high performance ‘Quadrifoglio’ version to be slotted in.
The incorporation of ‘mild hybrid’ technology offers an extra power boost that could allow Alfa Romeo to stretch out the underpinnings and power units of the Stelvio into a full-size SUV and compensate for the extra weight incurred, which according to Fedeli, would amount to around 200kg.
The gain in length for the Stelvio platform, which is 4,687 mm, to slot into J-segment would amount to around 300-400 mm. The Stelvio is already the weight leader in its class and at 1,660 kg is significantly lighter than rivals such as the X3 and Macan.
However, Auto Express isn’t always a reliable source, and platform sharing with Maserati’s Levante full-size SUV, introduced back in the second quarter of 2016, may prove a simpler and more ready option.
This route has long been considered by FCA and its original plans called for two versions for the two brands to be created off this architecture. The Levante is assembled in Turin and there is plenty of additional capacity available to send an Alfa Romeo derivative down the same line.