Although Chrslyer is cranking out a small batch of plug-in hybrid Ram trucks for the U.S. Department of Energy, the first examples of which expected to hit roads next week as part of a government-sponsored evaluation and demonstration, don't expect them to show up at dealer showrooms anytime soon.
Although a previous project to create a Ram 1500 hybrid pickup for consumers was canceled last year, at the time, Chrysler revealed it would build a limited number of those vehicles in PHEV form for the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE had awarded Chrysler a $48 million grant to develop and test PHEV pickups, and recent reports indicate both parties have a collective $100 million investment in the project.
From afar, PHEV Rams look much like their stock brethren, but the difference lies beneath the skin. Chrysler's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is mated to the two-mode hybrid transmission pioneered by General Motors (and briefly used in Chrysler's large Aspen and Dodge Durango SUVs in 2009). Also incorporated into the package is a liquid-cooled, 12.9-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, located directly beneath the rear seat.
The system is said to operate similar to other full-size truck applications of the two-mode system (notably the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Hybrids), but with a little extra EV-only range. Ram PHEVs are expected to travel up to 20 miles in pure electric mode before resorting to firing up the Hemi to propel the vehicle. Once it does, the vehicle's total range should clock in at 655 miles, roughly 200 more than a typical Ram 1500. True to its name, the Ram PHEV can be plugged in to recharge, although charging times have yet to be disclosed. Interestingly, utility companies can use the pickup as a battery backup of sorts, provided the truck is plugged into a smart grid network.
Adding this extra equipment does add weight, and subsequently, slightly decrease the Ram's physical capabilities. Payload and towing ratings are expected to ring in at 1000 lbs and 6000 lbs, respectively. In comparison, the non-electrified truck can carry 1570 lbs and tow up to 10,250 lbs.
According to the report, a total of 140 of the PHEV Rams will be delivered to departments of the DOE by October for road testing. The first batch will be delivered to Yuma, Arizona for extreme hot-weather testing (they'll likely face temperatures up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit).
The project between Chrysler and the DOE is slated to run through 2014.