2019 Ram 1500 eTorque first drive: The silent assassin of pickup trucks

August 24, 2018

The USS Seawolf attack submarine is said to be so quiet that the only way to discover it is to listen for the absence of sound. That’s a pretty tall order, and one we remembered while attempting to discern the activity of the mild hybrid electric assist motor in the 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque pickups.

The system is so silent and so invisibly seamless that searching for signs of its activation seems doomed to fail. The same is the case for the cylinder deactivation system that lets the optional 5.7-liter V-8 engine run on four cylinders to save fuel.

MORE: Read our 2019 Ram 1500 review

No more. The Hemi can now run on four cylinders as smoothly as eight, thanks to Ram’s sophisticated technical solutions for suppressing the vibration and uncouth noises produced by a 90-degree V-4 engine. The Ram features active vibration dampers mounted to the truck’s frame rails and noise cancellation technology using the truck’s audio speakers to cancel out unwanted noise and vibration from the engine’s fuel-saving 4-cylinder mode.

2019 Ram 1500, 2018 Detroit auto show

2019 Ram 1500, 2018 Detroit auto show

For 2019, Ram 1500 is available with a range of three different powertrains. The base system is the familiar 305-horsepower, 269 pound-foot. 3.6-liter V-6 gasoline engine seen on virtually every model in the company’s product line. Now, however, it is equipped with a 9-kw belt-alternator mild hybrid system capable of imparting 90 pound-feet of seamless electric thrust at takeoff to help launch the Ram off the line.

This device is an enlarged alternator, but with much greater capacity to generate power as well as the ability to return it to the engine through its drive belt. Ram’s Vehicle Electrification Manager Brian Spohn flinches at the notion such a device bolted to an existing gasoline engine is a simple “bolt-on” upgrade, however.

2019 Ram 1500

2019 Ram 1500

2019 Ram 1500

2019 Ram 1500

2019 Ram 1500

2019 Ram 1500

2019 Ram 1500

2019 Ram 1500

“There is so much integration work that goes on, this is anything but ‘bolt-on,’” he said.

This system also stops and restarts the gasoline engine when the truck is stopped, spinning the motor up from stationary in just 70 milliseconds and bringing the gas engine online in 400 ms. This means that the electric motor begins pushing the truck forward almost instantly, and the gas engine joins in to help within about half a rotation of the truck’s wheels.

Maybe the coolest aspect of the 3.6-liter V-6 with eTorque, as it is officially named, is that it is the Ram 1500’s base engine, yielding fuel economy benefits for no charge to buyers as the engine in the $33,340 (including $1,645 destination fee) entry-level truck.

Unlike some hybrids, the battery pack claims no valuable interior space. The Ram’s pack is about the size of a silverware chest and mounts on the back wall of the cab behind the rear seat in space that would otherwise be unused. It contains a dozen LG Chem battery cells to provide the system’s 430 watt-hours of 48-volt power.

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