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Ram Revolution EV designer interview: How it's totally different (besides the electric motors)

A conversation with Ram chief design officer Ralph Gilles

Ram 1500 Revolution concept truck
Ram 1500 Revolution concept truck / Image Credit: Ram
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Who would've thought that there'd be an electric pickup truck, period, let alone a complete segment of them from America's biggest truck makers? With the Ford F-150 Lightning already on sale and GM's electric Silverado and Sierra revealed and on the calendar to hit dealers, the Ram 1500 BEV Revolution Concept is the next EV pickup to join the group. While definitely a concept, what you see in the photos above isn't some fanciful show vehicle — much of it will be translated into the production version. It is based on an entirely new platform, not on the current Ram 1500, and as such, allows for radical new proportions for a full-size truck. The design is also subsequently quite the departure, and we got a chance to talk with Ram's chief design officer, Ralph Gilles, about it. 

Autoblog: Designers often talk about the freedom EVs give them to create something new and different. How does that compare when designing an electric pickup?

Ralph Gilles: To me that is really what separates this particular concept. That if you look at it, you stare at it. And so you'll notice it's really a cab-forward truck. The cab is really pushing quite forward almost on top of the front wheels. Yet its overall length is about the same as a classic 1500, let's say, with 50 millimeters of one give or take. It’s also less tall.

We were able to really sandwich the battery within the frame, not below the frame. Not anything strange. It's all self-contained. By fussing around the cabin, we're able to increase the people space yet with no sacrifice to the cargo space. Cause the truck still has to be a truck. So I think what I'm really happy with here is we're able to get the frunk in there, get the people in there, add a jump seat (so there's actually a third row hiding in that proportion) while not sacrificing any functionality.

At the same time, I think we achieved a very slippery truck that doesn't look like a jellybean either, or a doorstop or anything weird.

Autoblog: Building on that, the cab doesn’t look as tall as the current truck. How different is it?

Ralph Gilles: It is considerably lower, and that helps the frontal area come way, way down. I'll let you guess by how much for now. You'll stand next to it and you'll see it's surprisingly lower, but it still has a lot of presence.

Autoblog: How do you balance what seems like the market’s expectation for EVs to be forward-looking and even overtly futuristic, with the lower-case-C conservative design expectations of truck buyers?

Ralph Gilles: I love that question because I think the market is definitely parceling out in a way. You have the, let's say, early adopters that want to tell the world what they've chosen to do. So for that, yeah, the futurism is there. In our case, we've been talking to our current owners, and a lot of them are looking with a lot of interest at this EV space. We are also our customers in a way. We’re very much truck owners and buyers and users.

And they’ve been saying, give me something futuristic. Show me that it is doing something different. But don't do it for doing its sake, if you know what I mean. They don't want a frivolous thing. They don't want something that just tries so hard to look futuristic that it's kind of lost in itself.

So we're really trying to make it still a truck that has a bold presence, zero sacrifice to functionality, great visibility, and great usage. In some cases, better usage considering the ginormous frunk. I don't want to say how many bodies you can put in it, but it's quite substantial.

So honestly, our customers say, make it, make it look cool, make it look tough.

Autoblog: There’s not just one design of today’s Ram 1500, there's many of them corresponding with different trim levels and packages. Is that something that was taken into consideration for the BEV? Its adaptability to different niches?

Ralph Gilles: I'll just put it this way. We see our vehicles as canvases in a way. They're purposely, I don't want to say understyled, but we leave a little room with a simpler design. It's not overwrought with a lot of fussy detail. And that gives us options in the future. So, and that's exactly what happens at Ram. It can be a Rebel, it can be a Laramie, it can be a TRX, it can be a bedazzled luxury device.

And the reason that it can do that is because the proportions are really solid. There's not a lot of fussiness. It's like a really good men's suit that you can adorn with a pocket square or a bow tie, you know what I mean?

So we see this truck in the same way. Stay tuned. There's a lot more to come. I think Ram can do exactly what it's been doing for a very long time going forward. Cause that's our customer is exactly like that. They’re not one size fits all.

Autoblog: Thanks to the new platform, the cabin dimensions are apparently quite different. How so?

Ralph Gilles: It’s cavernous. We found that we could make it lower and we could make it substantially longer without giving up anything. In fact, because the engine’s no longer there, we were able to move the dash forward quite a bit and speed up the windshield. The real thing there was aerodynamics, improving the aero and seeing how far we can push the aero without obscuring visibility by putting the pillars in your line of sight. We found a kind of the sweet spot to speeding up the windshield and not also losing the toughness and character of the truck, and the functionality of the frunk. We kind of had to balance the base of windshield with the frunk size and the people space.

Autoblog: There’s a decent amount of angle of the C pillar. How much debate was there about exactly how much angle to give it without starting to freak people out? (See original Honda Ridgeline and Chevy Avalanche)

Ralph Gilles: We freaked ourselves out and that's good. If we're freaked out, that's a good sign. No, but it was good. It felt right. It really gave the truck a nice futuristic look and it kind of reminds you a little bit of a roll bar, you know, so it kind of harkens back.

We spent a lot of time theming and standing back and arguing. We had a lot of fun. It’s not so often you get to re-architect something so special.

Autoblog: The concept showcases a new face for Ram. How much does it preview the future of Ram in general?

Ralph Gilles: Yeah, there's a lot there. I'm glad you noticed that. We spent a lot of time on the tuning fork look of the LEDs, which really has been our whole campaign from Stellantis EV Day until now. So stay tuned on that. There’s a lot come. We’re definitely trying something out here and we’re seeing how the public responds. We love it. I really love the new logo and the new signature. Let’s say that kind of signifies the electric journey.

Autoblog: Along those lines, the current Ram obviously took a leap in terms of its face from the previous Dodge-originated ones. How much did the reaction and presumed acceptance of that new Ram face inform how much you could push in the future?

Ralph Gilles: Wow, that's interesting. If you look carefully, we're playing with the idea of walking a different direction. The current truck really evolved from [the second-generation Dodge Ram from the mid-1990s] with the dropdown fenders, right. And a lot of our competitors have actually adopted that look. Now we're going a different way. We’re really walking back that perspective, that execution and looking at this new look, maximizing the presence. We really had a lot of positive results from our TRX, that really cool kind of east to west feeling [of the front end].

That front end has a really commanding, very serious visage to it. And that's what we're looking at now with this. So yes, I think we're very confident that people will dig this.

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