During yesterday’s third-quarter earnings conference call, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Mike Manley confirmed that the RAM brand will join the “surge” of truck makers in building an electric pickup for the North American market. The news comes just over a week after General Motors (GM) unveiled its new all-electric GMC Hummer EV pickup. It puts FCA (or should we Stallantis?) in competition with GM, Ford, Tesla, Rivian, Lordstown Motors, and Bollinger Motors all of which are building electrified pickup trucks over the next couple of years.
“I do see that there will be an electrified Ram pickup in the marketplace, and I would ask you just to stay tuned for a little while, and we’ll tell you exactly when that will be,” Manley said during the call.
Instead of building an all-electric pickup from the ground up, Ford Motor Company is currently developing its popular F-150 architecture to carry an all-electrified powertrain. That could be a possibility for the RAM brand, the new F-150 is limited to certain packaging as shown in its prototypes showing a low slung battery pack hanging under the cab of the truck, eliminating a lot of the truck’s ground clearance.
Other manufacturers have developed all-new platforms, most revolving around a “skateboard” architecture that allows a lower center of gravity and the optimum packaging structure for an electric vehicle. Rivian, Tesla, and now GM have shown that they can build rugged platforms for their electric trucks, surrounded by technically advanced suspensions.
Now, RAM could get into the market real quick with an electric Ram 1500 thanks to the current DT architecture being able to adapt certain electrified powertrains already. This includes both the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engines, both with the eTorque mild-hybrid system.
The eTorque mild-hybrid system replaces the traditional alternator on the engine with a belt-driven motor generator unit that performs several functions. The motor-generator unit works with a 48-volt battery pack to enable quick and seamless start/stop function, short-duration torque addition to the engine crankshaft in certain driving situations, and brake energy regeneration, which improves responsiveness and efficiency.
With the engine running, eTorque’s motor generator unit feeds 48-volt current to a 430 watt-hour lithium-ion Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC)-Graphite battery. The small-suitcase-sized, air-cooled battery pack mounts to the rear wall inside the Ram 1500’s cabin. In addition to spinning the engine for restarts, the eTorque unit also recaptures energy during deceleration and braking to feed charge to the battery pack.
But in order for the current platform to adapt a true electrified powertrain option, it would be easy for RAM to take the upcoming plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) powertrain in the upcoming 2022 Jeep® Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer which are based on the Ram 1500 architecture. We talk more in-depth about that powertrain, this weekend. However, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe models that are hitting dealer lots in the first quarter of 2021, might shed some light on the quickest way to get an electrified Ram 1500 to market.
The Wrangler Unlimited 4xe’s advanced powertrain is made up of two electric motors, a high-voltage battery pack, a high-tech turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and a robust ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic transmission. Thanks to a transmission-mounted motor-generator unit that is integrated into the 8HP75PH 8-speed automatic, an engine-mounted motor-generator unit, and the battery pack the electrified powertrain can provide up to 25 miles of all-electric driving.
The turbocharged four-cylinder kicks on when the vehicle needs to charge the battery. The combined system gives the Wrangler Unlimited an estimated 50 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) while eliminating range anxiety, delivering pure-electric operation for most daily commutes.
This type of system seems to be the most logical for RAM to adapt until a true all-electric platform could be created. It would also offer one of the cheaper options for an electrified pickup. The Lordstown Endurance pickup will offer an estimated 250+ miles of range for around $52,500 before taxes, destination, and fees. It will be the cheapest full-sized electrified pickup on the market. So a PHEV model could be offered in the current platform with minimal changes to the current truck and be offered across the lineup and offer more range capability.
GM also announced on its 2020 sustainability report that its Chevrolet brand will be building a “Chevrolet BET Truck”. It will be the brand’s first electric full-size pickup, offering 400+ miles of range on a single charge. It is more than likely based on the all-new GMC Hummer EV pickup and since GMC has released pricing for the Hummer, we know that the Hummer EV Edition 1 launch edition will have a range of 350+ miles and will debut next fall for $112,595 USD. That price excludes tax, title, license, dealer fees, and optional equipment. So even if the Chevrolet is priced $15,000 cheaper than Hummer, it would still cost over $100,000 with that kind of range. That would place it out of the hands of many truck buyers.
Now while the GMC Hummer EV will have several battery ranges, the cheapest version of the truck has an estimated 250+ mile range like the Lordstown Endurance but will cost just under $80k, before additional fees.
While we expect a PHEV version of the Ram 1500 to arrive before an all-electric model, we should note that RAM has been toying with the idea of a Ram 1500 PHEV for some time now. You might remember, that RAM actually tested a fleet of Ram 1500 PHEV back in 2011 which we talked about when Manley stated that FCA could build an electrified RAM pickup if customers demanded it.
No matter the direction that the RAM brand takes with its electrified option, it is an exciting time to be a pickup truck fan. With vehicles like the 702 horsepower 2021 Ram 1500 TRX performance off-roader, the 2021 Ram 2500 Power Wagon off-roader, and the fuel-efficient Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the only way for the brand to continue to be competitive is to innovate.