Detroit utility gets plug-in hybrid Ram 1500s for test fleet

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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