Talk to anyone who studies the U.S. truck market, and you'll hear a prevailing message that customers care about strong performance figures – not high-mpg ratings or other efficiency measures – when they buy a truck. For the most part, trucks are still for people who need to get stuff done, and this stuff need to get done no matter where gas prices are. As Ram CEO Fred Diaz once said, "Truckers don't want to buy hybrids."

Still, there's a good case to be made that fuel-efficient trucks will be more and more important as gas prices continue to climb in the future, and so it makes sense that Chrysler is still testing its Ram 1500 plug-in hybrid pick-up truck. This time, Chrysler is giving ten PHEV Ram 1500 pickups to Detroit-area utility DTE Energy as part of a project with the U.S. Department of Energy. The trucks will be used for three years, gaining "real world city miles" as they "evaluate city drive cycles, charging performance, fuel economy and real-world performance." The trucks use a liquid-cooled 12.9-kWh lithium ion battery pack from Electrovaya and a 6.6 kW on-board charger for the plug-in side combined with a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine and a two-mode hybrid transmission.

Chrysler is also testing more trucks in other areas, for a total of 140 nationwide. Over 100 are already deployed but there are no plans to put the PHEV into production. So, basically, even with the tests, it looks like the truck market isn't going to get a plug-in Chrysler product any time soon. There is a hint that a more consumer-friendly Pentastar PHEV may be coming, though, as Chrysler is developing a fleet of 25 Town & Country PHEV minivans.
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Chrysler Group LLC Providing DTE Energy with Test Fleet of 10 PHEV Ram 1500 Pickup Trucks

• Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) will be supplied to DTE Energy as part of a demonstration project by Chrysler Group LLC
• Real world city miles to be accumulated on demonstration vehicles over the next three years
• Fleet of vehicles developed in partnership with U.S. Department of Energy
• Ram 1500 plug-in electric hybrid test trucks will be used to evaluate city drive cycles, charging performance, fuel economy and real-world performance

December 15, 2011 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - Chrysler Group LLC, working in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), will deliver 10 demonstration fleet Ram 1500 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) pickup trucks to DTE Energy of Detroit.

The PHEV Ram 1500 pickups, delivered by Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of the Chrysler Group's advanced hybrid vehicle project, are part of a national demonstration fleet of 140 vehicles that will be used during the next three years to evaluate customer usage, drive cycles, charging, thermal management, fuel economy, emissions and impact on the region's electric grid. In addition to DTE Energy of Detroit, more than 100 vehicles have been delivered to 16 different cities in the past six months.

"Cities have been carefully selected to help the Chrysler Group LLC collect a wide range of data," explained Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of Chrysler's advanced hybrid vehicle project. "Working with a local energy partner like DTE that is in our backyard offers a great combination of suburban and rural driving, as well as ever-changing Michigan weather, is ideal as a test cycle for these vehicles. The constant charging will allow us to measure the impact on battery life and charging efficiency."

Chrysler Group LLC began delivering Ram 1500 PHEV trucks to the city of Yuma, Ariz., in May, 2011 to take full advantage of hot weather and conduct thermal testing in the desert southwest. Other cities that have received the demonstration Ram 1500 pickups include San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., Charlotte, N.C., Boston, Mass., and Albany, N.Y. Just recently, the New York Police Department also took delivery of five PHEV Ram 1500 PHEV trucks.

"The trucks will provide us with a glimpse of what kind of fuel savings cans be afforded with PHEV technologies so we can, at some point, make our truck fleet more environmentally friendly," said Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy vice president Marketing and Renewables. "We'll be using the trucks at our service centers and in the field at our renewable energy facilities."

Strictly a demonstration program, there are no plans for a production version of the PHEV Ram 1500 trucks at this time.
Cities and states were selected to evaluate temperature extremes, urban traffic cycles and diverse climates and geographies.
The Ram 1500 PHEV includes a liquid-cooled 12.9kWhr lithium ion battery pack and a 6.6 kilowatt (kW) on-board charger. Additional features include 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 of the four-wheel-drive automatic transmission can be disconnected when not needed. The powertrain also includes a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine and a two-mode hybrid transmission. The 5.7-liter Hemi is equipped with a Fuel Saver technology that improves fuel efficiency at highway speeds by shutting down fuel delivery to up to four cylinders.

The battery pack is located under the second-row seat of the pickup and is liquid cooled to help maintain a consistent battery temperature. For on-the-job electrical power tools, a 240 volt/30 amp four-prong outlet and 120volt/20amp duplex outlet power strip is located in the rear box.

Urban use will be tracked to measure battery performance and overall hybrid efficiency with the demonstration fleet of pickups. Other uses include military bases where vehicles will be able to provide power back to the electric grid in what is termed "reverse power flow" of up to 6.6kW.

Funding for the program in part is provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 through the Transportation Electrification Initiative sponsored by the DOE. The grant, totaling $48 million from DOE and $49.4 million from Chrysler Group LLC, was designed to develop vehicles that will be cost efficient for consumers, satisfy safety concerns of daily travel without recharging and help reduce dependence on foreign oil.

The Chrysler Group LLC also is developing a similar fleet of 25 Town & Country minivans with plug-in hybrid technology for demonstration and evaluation that will be allocated to select cities next year.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 19 Comments
      Chris M
      • 11 Hours Ago
      The 2 mode hybrid (Chrysler version of the GM Dual Mode) is well suited for plug-in hybrid use, and pickups have plenty of room under the bed for a big battery pack. Add a power inverter for 110/220 volt AC to that battery and it would be a very popular truck with contractors, or anyone else that needed convenient AC power on remote sites. And I'm sure no trucker, macho or not, is going to object to saving money on fuel.
        skierpage
        • 11 Hours Ago
        @Chris M
        If it's the same as the Durango/Asspen hybrid, then it's not that great for a plug-in hybrid, since that system is all-electric only up to 25 mph. Once you pull onto a major street, the V8 starts up. Chrysler agrees about on-site AC power, read the press release: "For on-the-job electrical power tools, a 240 volt/30 amp four-prong outlet and 120volt/20amp duplex outlet power strip is located in the rear box. ... AC power generation of up to 6.6kW." Back in 2009 Fiat-Chrysler promised a hybrid RAM in 2010, a PHEV minivan for "DOE Grant PHEV Demo Fleet" in 2011, and an unidentified "Light Commercial" (Fiat?) BEV van in 2012. Oh well.
          Chris M
          • 11 Hours Ago
          @skierpage
          Granted, there could be better hybrid designs, but even with a 25 mph max "EV only" speed, it could work, as even at higher speeds the IC engine can run at optimum speed and use electrical power for extra power, thus improving fuel economy. Even better, by making some modifications in the gearing and using more powerful electric motors, the "EV only" speed can be increased. That's what Toyota is doing for their Plug-in Prius.
      Nick
      • 11 Hours Ago
      Why keep the 5.7L V8 ?? How about an eco-boost-like V6 along with the hybrid system?
        JakeY
        • 11 Hours Ago
        @Nick
        This is kind of like BipDBo's comment. My personal guess is this is just a ploy to get government money (like Chrysler's previous ENV plug-in program, which they immediately cut after it served its purpose when pitching for federal money). That's why I expect they want to spend as little in terms of development as possible. It's not like they have any production plans for this.
        EZEE
        • 11 Hours Ago
        @Nick
        That is a great point. Seeing as they only have an extremely limited number out there, why not go all out on efficiency? Nothing to lose, as even if they don't prove workable, you didn't anger many customers. Also, you can thump your chest on how cool you are (even though only having built limited numbers).
      Trucks
      • 11 Hours Ago
      Your blog is so simple and interesting. Thanks for sharing the tips. I think AMW trucks are the best. AMW manufactures commercial vehicle, auto components, fully built vehicles and forged components in India. http://www.amwasia.com/
      paulwesterberg
      • 11 Hours Ago
      If chrysler hasn't standardized their transmission mating and engine mounts then they are doing it wrong.
      Pete K
      • 11 Hours Ago
      I read that in the early 90s Chrysler was using 18 different alternators for their engines...
      • 11 Hours Ago
      the idiots have gotten it all wrong again. To be efficient you have to mate your 100 KW electric motor/generator driving the rear axle to an advanced 4cyl. turbo diesel in the front. Yes it would require some engineering and if the big boys can't do it they should get out of the way and hire some high school kids. So far the have only put up off the shelf tokens which are old outdated technology. Most cars and that goes for trucks too are used for transportation and not for drag racing.
      JakeY
      • 11 Hours Ago
      @paulwesterberg That doesn't really matter. It'll still cost them extra development money to switch the engines even if they did standardize things. I imagine there will be necessary tweaks on the electric side if the power and torque characteristics on the engine changed from an engine swap even if they were able to mate it with the V6. Plus difference in the physical size, layout, connections, etc. of the engines means there will be extra development to integrate it into the car with the hybrid system. The drivetrain right now is just direct from the Durango and Aspen Hybrids, so there's absolutely no development needed.
      Spec
      • 11 Hours Ago
      "Truckers don't want to buy hybrids." . . . Really? I have a higher view of truckers. I don't think they are that stupid. Truckers know that fuel costs cut into their profits and they would be happy to buy hybrids as long as the money saved on fuel outweighs increased up-front costs.
        EZEE
        • 11 Hours Ago
        @Spec
        people want what works. I have a truck (a small one) - if it does what I want in an economical way, I don't care what is under the hood. The escape hybrid I had was a hoot. I have kept my truck in show piece condition and would convert it over if economical.
        JeremyD
        • 11 Hours Ago
        @Spec
        I think some see hybrids as less manly. Those that are insecure with their "manly" image are the people they are referring to. Haven't you seen this bumper sticker: "BUY A HYBRID, I NEED THE GAS" (all in caps like they are yelling at you for some reason.)
      Nick
      • 11 Hours Ago
      Yeah. Seems like the huge V8 outweighs the savings brought by the hybrid system. I really don't get this.
      BipDBo
      • 11 Hours Ago
      With a 13 kw*hr battery, why does this need a 5.7 liter v8? Why not a lighter, more efficient "Pentastar" V6 which puts out 290 hp? Maybe the V8 needed to haul the extra weight of the battery. That would defeat the whole purpose, wouldn't it?
        JakeY
        • 11 Hours Ago
        @BipDBo
        It has nothing to do with the additional battery. It's simply because the non-plug-in Hybrid version already has that V8 and given this is a limited production fleet, it's not worth the development dollars to change the engine.
        HVH20
        • 11 Hours Ago
        @BipDBo
        Because batteries don't provide rotational motion, motors do. It depends on the kW output of the motors, and in this case it looks like they are using the stock setup from the 2-mode transmission. My guess is at low speeds these trucks run 100% off electric power, then it transitions over to all motor at high speeds with the electric available for additional assist. The v8 is the standard engine mated to the 2-mode transmission, it would be a completely new development cycle if the switched engines.
          BipDBo
          • 11 Hours Ago
          @HVH20
          For an EV or a hybrid, the battery is the single most expensive part, and the motor should be sized to match the battery. A battery does not provide mechanical power, but it does provide electrical power. We most often refers to batteries in terms of their total energy storage in kw*hr, but in general, the size of the battery is also linearly related to its peak power output. A battery with twice the kw*hr capacity can provide about twice the instantaneous power. A 13 kw*hr batter as seen in these trucks should be good for a motor around 60-70 hp. Your point that it's a 2-mode sytem is a good one. The motor probably assists the engine at low speeds, but at higher loads, the engine probably still provides most of the grunt. At highway speeds though, the motor probably doesn't do anything, but I would think that 290 hp would be sufficient for highway cruising of a truck designed for efficiency considering that tractor trailer rigs have 400-500 hp typically. Don't give me the old song about, "they have more torque." Power moves a vehicle, not torque. Power is constant through the gear ratios, where torque is traded with rpm.
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