A 4.6 meter long executive sedan, designed by Pininfarina and powered by an electric drive should be a worthy competitor for Tesla. But we are not talking about the “next big thing” from a known automobile manufacturer, but a “fan made”-project, an electric Alfa Romeo 164. An “Alfisti” converted this 1991 model from gas- to electric-drive.[1] With this, tt is the first Alfa Romeo e-car. But despite that the company’s roots include electric vehicles. Before Alexandre Darracq founded with this Italian partner Ugo Stella “A.L.F.A.” (“Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili”) in 1909, he already manufactured automobiles in his homeland France.[2] This included also the investment into electric cars, as for a short moment in time early pioneers thought that the electric engine would be the first mainstream solution. In 1895 inventor and GE co-founder Thomas Edison presented his first electric car proudly to press and public. Earlier, already in 1882 the Siemens und Halske company tested their electric model on a test track. In this case still not with on-board batteries, but using an overhead power line.[3]

But the development went for a long time into another direction. Nevertheless Dieter Zetsche, Chairman at the Daimler Benz Board of Directors, mentioned at his visit of the 2017 “South by Southwest” (SXSW), since 30 years the leading conference for internet and pop culture that Tesla achieved to make electric cars sexy. Today consumers not only would consider buying an e-car because of its potentially positive impact on the environment, but because they are cool, fast and fun to drive. Of course he mentioned Daimler’s relation to Tesla, as the company supported them in their early years, also to financially stabilize them. Today the electric pioneer is a competitor, but also an inspiration. BMW already has two electric lifestyle products on the market, Daimler will follow until 2020.[4]

Back to Alfa Romeo. In 1976 the company presented together with the designer Bertone the concept-car “Navajo”. As a product of its time, it had been styled in actual futuristic lines. The minimalistic clear lines from earlier show-cars had been replaced by an opulent futuristic approach, including wings and plastic parts. What stayed had been the wedge. The silver color together with red line obviously reminded to science fiction movies. To foster this effect, Bertone even updated the Alfa Romeo logo and font set. The car still featured a known V8-engine, even if based on the design, you would expect a quit electric motor.

Today inside the Fiat Chrysler Company, Jeep and Alfa Romeo are positioned as the company’s world brands, combining life-style, design and performance. Alfa Romeo is inside a re-launch, especially on the attractive US-market. New models as the Giulia and Stelvio are promising symbols for a bright future. We see that the brand is still strong in the automobile sector, convincing with Italian life-style and design. The available fuel engine complete this positive picture. But the market is changing, not only in the US, but also Europe and China. A powerful electric drive would fit and boost Alfa Romeo with an additional “coolness” factor. So there is no question if the company will offer cars with electric or any other type of alternative drives, only when. A possible name to combine new technologies with the company’s rich history is also available: “Alfa Romeo Darracq”.

Sources:

[1] Berman, Bradley (2013): “Classic 1991 Alfa Romeo 164, Converted to Electric”

Henz, Patrick (2017): “Access Granted – Tomorrow’s Business Ethics”

[2] Henz, Patrick (2017): “Italian Car Tales”

[3] Arbuckle, Alex (fetched 18.3.2017): “1880 – 1920 The first electric cars”

[4] DRadio Eine Stunde Wissen – Was mit Medien (2017): “Smartphone – Das Über-Gerät“

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