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Chrysler Announces A New Fleet Of Plug-In Ram Pickups

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Yesterday, Chrysler revealed plans to sell an all-electric version of the Fiat 500 in U.S. showrooms. Though the announcement made some people very happy, it wasn't especially groundbreaking: many had assumed a Fiat EV would arrive stateside in the not-so-distant future.

Far more surprising was the news found further down Chrysler's press release, indicating that the automaker has even more green tech in the works -- technology that's headed for the Ram line of pickups.

Specifically, Chrysler says that it is in the process of building a test fleet of 140 Ram plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). The project is made possible by a grant of "up to $48 million" from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Ram PHEV will mate Chrysler's 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with a two-mode hybrid transmission and a 12kwhr lithium ion battery, rendering the PHEV capable of 20 miles of electric-only travel. Considering average drive cycles, that translates to an improvement in fuel economy of about 65% over current models.

Perhaps most importantly for green truck fans (we know you're out there), this marks the death of Chrysler's plans to launch a more conventional hybrid Ram pickup for 2011. Due to poor sales of short-lived models like the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid and Dodge Durango Hybrid, Chrysler 86ed plans for SUV hybrids last fall, but the automaker said that a Ram hybrid was still in the works. Since that time, Chrysler has spent a good bit of time evaluating the public's tepid response to hybrid pickups from other manufacturers, and apparently, the market isn't strong enough to warrant developing such an expensive variant. Instead, Chrysler has opted to leapfrog straight to the PHEV.

As far as we can tell, the "up to $48 million" that Chrysler credits for backing this program comes from the $70 million battery grant that Chrysler was awarded by the DOE last August. (Unlike Ford, Nissan, Tesla, and Fisker, Chrysler has yet to receive any of the DOE's $25 billion earmarked for advanced tech vehicles.) If we're correct, that leaves us to wonder: what's up with the remaining $22 million, Sergio?

While poke around for a response to that question, here's an excerpt from Chrysler's release that deals specifically with the Ram PHEV.

* * * * *

Ram Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

  • Department of Energy provides up to $48 million grant toward test fleet of 140 Ram Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
  • PHEV technology to improve fuel economy up to 65 percent with up to 20 mile electric-only driving range

Auburn Hills, Mich., Mar 22, 2010 - Chrysler Group has been selected for a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant of up to $48 million as part of a $2.4 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act DOE Vehicle Electrification program. Chrysler Group is planning to build a total of 140 Ram PHEVs for a three-year demonstration project that includes various geographic and climatic locations across the United States.

“This initiative represents how government, automotive industry, suppliers and key partners are reaching common goals and demonstrates how rapidly this type of advanced technology can be brought to market,” said Paolo Ferrero, Senior Vice President-Powertrain, Chrysler Group LLC. “DOE-support for domestic advanced technology is an important enabler for Chrysler Group and its key suppliers in order to understand and test customer acceptance and the capability of PHEV systems in a variety of real-world conditions.”

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Comment (1)
  1. I hope this keeps the "green crowd" happy over at the obama administration. There is about as much interest in these vehicles as there is in melting icebergs, although I hear Al Gore has put a deposit (in a locked box) on one. Realistically, Chrysler can't afford to waste too much money on these "hair brain" ideas that are impractical and unpopular but keep the "flower children" so happy.Opps, was that a Doo Doo bird over there?
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