The next electric car competitor is a company you may not know
Unless you follow the automotive market, you’ve probably never heard of Stellantis. In fact, the name did not exist publicly until early this year. But you will know the brands it encompasses. These include Fiat, Dodge, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Citroën, Peugeot, Vauxhall, Opel, Lancia and Ram. Thursday, Stellantis announced a huge bet on electric. Can it really compete or is it already too late to join the EV revolution?
Stellantis was born from a merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and PSA Group, making it the 4e largest automobile manufacturer in the world. The PSA Group has already offered some pretty successful electric offerings, revolving mainly around the same 50 kWh battery and the same 136 hp engine, which it has crammed into everything from subcompact sedans to large delivery vans, in all cases alongside fossil fuel variants of the same models. Likewise, Fiat has just launched an electric version of the popular 500.
On Thursday, however, Stellantis had their first EV Day and the announcements were both bullish and wide. Dodge is committed to becoming a seller of “eMuscle” cars that “tear the streets, not the planet”. Alfa Romeo would allegedly become Alfa e-Romeo in 2024. Ram trucks, vans and vans will be “Built to serve a sustainable planet”. Chrysler plans to deliver “clean technology for a new generation of families.” Even Jeep offers “zero emission freedom”. Globally, Stellantis aims to produce more than 70% of its low-emission vehicles in Europe by 2030 and 40% in the United States.
These are all nice slogans and intentions, but it’s the tech and business strategy behind them all that really gets the attention. Stellantis plans to invest more than 30 billion euros ($ 35 billion) by 2025 in electrification and software. It aims to have three gigafactories by 2025 producing over 80 GWh of batteries in the EU and 50 GWh of batteries in the US by 2025, reaching over 170 GWh in Europe and 90 GWh in the US by 2030. However, to put this into perspective, Tesla pledged 3 TWh of battery production capacity by 2030 on its last Battery Day.
Still, Stellantis’ total of 260 GWh in 2030 would be enough to supply more than 5 million of those 50 kWh batteries used in current PSA Group cars. Fortunately, Stellantis has far more ambitious plans than that. The whole concept behind the merger was to create a scale enough that a handful of flexible platforms could be used to deliver a huge range of cars across the company’s 14 major brands, while still allowing each to add their own personal touch to their market and customer type.
The platforms are all called STLA – appropriately enough also the ticker symbol for the shares of the merged company, and also (not so) oddly close to Tesla’s TSLA ticker. The four options are STLA Small, Medium, Large, and Frame, with target specs that sound about right. The STLA Small offers ranges of up to 300 miles, while the Medium extends up to 440 miles, with Large and Frame offering up to 500 miles. The size of the batteries on the platforms will range from 37 kWh to over 200 kWh, the latter showing that Stellantis plans to deliver battery-electric vehicles to heavy-duty vehicles, although the group is also looking into hydrogen for this type of vehicle, as well as on vans.
In some ways, the Frame option is the most important of all. This platform is aimed at Commercial Vehicles. Stellantis is the market leader for light commercial vehicles in Europe with a share of 34.3% in 2020. Globally, Stellantis held 13% of the market for light commercial vehicles and vans in 2020. In America, the offerings Stellantis business will be better known through its Ram brand. , which holds just over 4% of the US market, but is growing steadily. Commercial vehicles are rapidly switching to electric for last mile deliveries in the city thanks to the push to reduce urban emissions, and Stellantis must stay ahead of the game.
Stellantis equips these transmission platforms based on three different electric drive modules (EDMs). The smaller EDM delivers 70kW (94hp) with a 400V supply, the medium 125-180kW (161-241hp) with a 400V supply, and the larger ones offer 150 to 330kW (201-443hp) with 400V or 800V supplies. There were also hints of cars capable of hitting 60 mph in under 2 seconds, like the Tesla Model S Plaid, which may or may not become a reality, but engine combinations may offer a full range of options. Stellantis spoke about the front, rear and all-wheel drive configurations, covering the wide range of makes and types of vehicles in its portfolio. Obviously, anything from a small urban subcompact to a monster all-wheel-drive performance car, pickup or heavy truck will be possible.
The EV Day gave a lot of detail on how all of this would be achieved over its two-hour plus span. Two battery chemistries will be used, a cheaper and less dense one without nickel or cobalt, and a high density using nickel. Solid-state batteries are targeted for 2026. Stellantis has set a target to achieve a fully circular recycling strategy for its batteries. The company also mentioned the need to focus on software, but left that to a future update. This is an area where Tesla is generally considered to have a significant lead over all of its competition, so it was reassuring that it was at least mentioned.
One thing Stellantis didn’t talk much about on their EV day was China. The company only had a 0.4% market share in this market in 2020 and could really miss it if it doesn’t increase sales in the region. The dates cited were also questionable. The Volkwagen Group is already deploying its MEB platform on a wide range of compact cars and SUVs from its brand portfolio, BMW will market pure electric vehicles later this year, and Nissan will also deliver its highly anticipated Ariya electric SUV in 2021. But many Stellantis brands only target 2024, when these competitors will be firmly established in the electricity market. Then, of course, there’s always Tesla, which could have a $ 25,000 model by then.
Still, Stellantis is clearly betting the firm on electrification, and that seems to be what the fusion and brand were created for. The timing puts a question mark as to whether the group will be early enough to capture the market share and LEV balance it promises. But that could also be about correct, given that most experts consider 2024 to be roughly the time when battery-electric vehicles are getting cheaper to buy than internal combustion, and most Stellantis brands. focus on value rather than high end luxury. At least Stellantis is doing what needs to be done to have any chance of survival. Only time will tell if it works.