American “muscle cars” got their name because of their big, powerful engines and fast speed.
Some of the gas-powered cars are so noisy, the Associated Press recently described them as “thundering.”
But interest worldwide in electric cars brings up this question: Can a muscle car go electric?
The carmaker Stellantis makes the Dodge Challenger and Charger—two well-known muscle cars. General Motors makes the popular Chevrolet Corvette. Both companies are wondering if they can keep the interest of buyers who love traditional, gas-powered cars.
Car fans who loved the classic, powerful cars that used a lot of fuel are called “gearheads.”
The new battery-powered cars are quicker than the old gas-powered cars that sold themselves based on “horsepower.” Horsepower is a term used to talk about the power created by an engine. For years, high horsepower signaled “high performance.”
While the new cars go fast and are easier to control than cars with big engines, they do not make much noise. Will the gearheads someday become battery-heads?
Stellantis hopes so. The company, which is half American and half Italian, will stop making gas-powered versions of the Challenger, Charger and its larger Chrysler 300 by the end of 2023.
Other automakers are in the process of doing the same thing.
Many European automakers already have electric versions of their high-performance cars. They include Porsche, Audi and Mercedes.
General Motors said it will soon make an electric Corvette. Polestar is an electric vehicle company started by the owners of Volvo. Polestar says a roadster – or small, fun car – is coming soon.
Governments around the world are requiring cars to create less pollution. U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration also recently put in place new rules.
As a result, car makers are starting to center their production on electric cars. Some car factories are being updated so they can make electric vehicles. Other producers are building new factories.
Tim Kuniskis leads the Dodge division for Stellantis. “It’s tough,” he said when discussing the idea that governments are considering financial punishments, known as fines, for companies that do not meet new requirements to reduce fuel use.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, said Stellantis’ cars use the most fuel and have the worst effect on the environment. Some of the cars, such as one version of the Charger with a big engine called the Hemi Hellcat, travel only about five kilometers on a liter of fuel.
New rules put in place by the EPA say all of a company’s new car models must be much more fuel efficient by 2026 than they are now.
Sam Abuelsamid is a researcher for Guidehouse Insights. He said some carmakers will keep making models with traditional engines, known as internal combustion engines, for about 10 years.
Dodge is working to improve its cars’ use of fuel but also keep the gearheads interested. The new cars will make noise like the old ones even if they are using batteries.
A recent demonstration by Dodge showed off a Charger that made noise just like a muscle car.
Kuniskis, however, is a critic of his own company’s new car. “It doesn’t have the emotion,” he said, speaking of the electric cars. “It doesn’t have the drama. It doesn’t have the dangerous feeling” of an internal combustion engine. But he did say that the new electric Charger would be the fastest ever.
Rick Nelson likes the old cars. He owns a company that fixes muscle cars in Illinois. He said it might be a “hard sell” to get older drivers who grew up with big, loud cars to switch to electric ones.
But, times are changing. Nelson said he knows of businesses that are starting to think about how to put electric driving systems into the “classic” cars.
He said, “Guys like me are just going to frown on it and laugh at it.” But he knows, as he put it, “this isn’t about my generation.”
Kuniskis said the future is not the end of the muscle car.
“It’s OK,” he said. “Just let us show you what the future looks like.”
I’m Dan Friedell. And I'm Jill Robbins.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.
Words in This Story
muscle car –n. an American-made two door sports car with a powerful engine
thunder –n. the loud sound that comes from lightening in the sky
classic –adj. something that has been popular for a long time
tough –adj. difficult
battery –n. a device that stores electricity for use by a machine, like an electric motor
drama –n. a situation or series of events that excite people’s emotions
frown –v. a serious facial expression signaling displeasure
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