Several automakers over the past two years have announced their intentions to produce an arsenal of electric pickup trucks. The new generation of electric pickups has ranged from the subtle Rivian R1T midsize pickup, to the Lordstown Endurance full-size offering, the bold GMC Hummer EV SUT, to the odd-looking Tesla Cybertruck, there have never been as many choices for an electric pickup truck. But what about the Ram Truck brand?
But in a recent interview with The Detroit News, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO and former Ram Truck President Mike Manley talked about the future of the Ram brand and the possibility of a Ram-based offering. “The reason we haven’t spoken much about electric pickup trucks is not [that] we view that market as non-existent. We’ve always had a slightly different view of timing and adoption rates, particularly in North America in terms of full electrification. We are very committed to our electrification strategy — most of which we have revealed,” said Manley.
The automaker has made it no secret, that the future of the company is headed more towards electrification with the recent introduction of the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) Jeep® brand’s 4xe nameplate, the award-winning Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, the future lineup of electrified Maserati vehicles, and the current lineup of mild-hybrid engines under the hood of the Ram 1500 lineup.
Ram could easily adapt its popular Ram 1500 for electrification, as the Ram 1500 architecture will be underpinning the upcoming Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer PHEV models that will launch next year. The new full-size Jeep SUVs will be built right down the road from the current 2020 Ram 1500 in neighboring Warren, Michigan at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant, which also currently builds the Ram 1500 Classic.
A new electrified Ram 1500 would also part an important part of the brand’s direction to take over the top-spot from Ford Motor Company’s F-150, as the F-150 team plans to release an electrified version of the popular half-ton in 2021. The Ram Truck brand has a lot of new technology coming to its 2021 Ram 1500 lineup as well as the introduction of the new performance TRX off-roader to battle the F-150 Raptor.
One of the key components to FCA’s rear-wheel-drive-based PHEV vehicles is the new ZF 8-speed hybrid transmission that doesn’t include the standard torque converter found on most transmissions but has an electric motor system instead. ZF states that the transmission can power a vehicle up to 31 miles (or 50 kilometers) or up to 74.5 mph (or 120 kph), depending on the size of the battery used in the vehicle. This means an electrified Ram 1500 would meet a majority of the owner’s daily driving needs without having to use gasoline. This transmission will be used in the upcoming Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe, which will debut this winter.
Back in 2011, Ram actually built 140 Ram 1500 PHEV test trucks that were supplied to selected cities and states as part of a demonstration project. Those trucks featured a liquid-cooled 12.9kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 6.6 kilowatt (kW) on-board charger. Additional features included AC power generation of up to 6.6kW; directional charging; reverse power flow and full regenerative braking used to capture more energy. For fuel economy improvements, the front axle could be disconnected when not needed. The powertrain also included a 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 engine and a two-mode hybrid transmission.
We wouldn’t expect to see a Ram 1500-based electrified model, until the 2023 model year when the fifth-generation Ram 1500 is scheduled for its first serious update.