Chrysler Announces A New Fleet Of Plug-In Ram Pickups

March 23, 2010
Dodge Durango Hybrid

Dodge Durango Hybrid

Ram Hybrid Badge

Ram Hybrid Badge

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.”

The Ram PHEV features Chrysler Group’s 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with a two mode hybrid transmission and a 12KwHr lithium ion battery. The vehicle is capable of up to 20 miles of zero-emission, pure-electric range without the need for gasoline. An overall fuel economy improvement more than 65 percent is expected for average drive cycles. Chrysler Group has partnered with Electrovaya Inc. to supply the advanced lithium Ion batteries for the Ram PHEV test fleet.

The DOE grant will expedite the development of vehicle-electrification technology. More than 21 Chrysler Group partners across the U.S., including utility companies, government agencies and Universities will independently test the Ram PHEV and provide valuable data for the advancement of the technology.

In 2008, Chrysler Group announced the company’s intention to bring a Ram Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) to market. After closely evaluating the response to hybrid pickups in the marketplace, the company could not formulate an appropriate business case and has decided to cancel development work on the 2011 Ram HEV.

Chrysler Group’s alliance with Fiat Group brings new platforms and technologies that allow the company to create an improved long-term product strategy with greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. Chrysler Group’s five-year plan has an uncompromising product schedule, including a progressive vehicle electrification strategy.

About Chrysler Group LLC
Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., Chrysler Group LLC’s product lineup features some of the world's most recognizable vehicles, including the Chrysler 300, Jeep Wrangler and Ram Truck. Fiat will contribute world-class technology, platforms and powertrains for small- and medium-sized cars, allowing Chrysler Group to offer an expanded product line including environmentally friendly vehicles.

[Chrysler]

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