By on February 10, 2022

This week, Stellantis announced the Ram Revolution at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show. Though it was less of an all-electric pickup concept intended to compete on a market that’s about to become saturated with them, and more of a way to engage with consumers on how the truck brand should implement its take on the segment.

To the surprise of everyone working here, Ram’s Revolution turned out to be little more than a market-research campaign designed to ensure the automaker can build an electric truck people actually want to buy. But that doesn’t mean the manufacturer hasn’t already made plans of its own. Ram CEO Mike Koval Jr. has even been sharing some of Stellantis’ electrification strategies, including outfitting some 1500 electric pickups with a range extender. 

Details came by way of an interview between occasional TTAC contributor Chad Kirchner, writing for EV Pulse, and Koval from the floors of the Chicago Auto Show:

He tells us that the Ram 1500 electric will “push past” not only the current competition (and competition that will be out by then), but also customer expectations of what an electric truck should be.

While talking about that truck, he also mentioned that along with the fully-electric pickup truck, there will be a “class shattering” range extender version.

While he wouldn’t go into details — executives like to not talk about future product — this is the first that we’ve heard that the Ram would have a range extendible option.

I cannot tell you the number of engineers that have told me managing weight is one of the most difficult problems to solve in terms of mainstreaming electrification. Towing has proven to be particularly troublesome as all-electric powertrains typically aren’t rated for extremely heavy loads. While battery densities have improved, most EVs can expect to lose a meaningful fraction of their normal efficiency when dragging a little weight. On combustion vehicles, this is less of a problem because it’s relatively easy to pull into a station and fuel up. Electrics have to sit around charging a bit longer and normally lack the range of their internal combustion counterparts.

Ram’s solution is to offer the option to equip future electrified pickups with a gas (or diesel) motor that exists solely to recharge the battery. Range extenders haven’t gotten much love in the past. But advocates have claimed that’s because they were going into combustion-based platforms that had been converted into EVs, rather than dedicated electric platforms. The theory is that having a small combustion motor that only activates when more juice is needed will be more efficient than a traditional hybrid.

It’s also likely to cost far less to manufacture than a tow-friendly, plug-in hybrid or simply equipping EVs with a larger battery pack.

Budget is undoubtedly playing a factor here. It always does with manufacturers. But running with a range extender also allows Ram to classify the pickup as a zero-emissions vehicle on several important markets. It’s not, of course, and technically neither are standard EVs that have to source their energy for power stations. But the government doesn’t seem to know that (or just doesn’t care) and is willing to categorize them as superior to internal combustion cars — thereby incurring no additional penance for existing.

I don’t really get it. Wasn’t the whole point of electrification to get away from liquid fuels?

Despite a renewed push for range extenders in Europe, they still lose a meaningful amount of energy through heat and friction. Maybe the next batch improves efficiencies, resulting in something more popular than the Chevrolet Volt and BMW i3. But history has made it hard to envision the technology working on a full-sized pickup. Few companies that were developing range extenders actually put them into their products. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if an old idea can come back from the ashes as a winner.

[Image: Stellantis]

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31 Comments on “Report: Ram to Introduce 1500 Electric With Range Extender...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “all-electric powertrains typically aren’t rated for extremely heavy loads”

    EVs have no problem pulling heavy loads; electric motors are quite good at that. The R1T is rated for 11000 lbs, and the 2016+ Model X is rated for 5000 lbs. The upcoming Lightning is good for 10,000 lbs.

    It’s just that at full towing capacity, you lose 50% of your range, before accounting for speed and weather.

    But I’m not confident in a range extender solution. As you correctly point out, it’s been a dud several times. Range extenders are the internet armchair engineer’s solution to the battery density problem. If RAM is getting its advice from online wannabee engineers/marketers, they’re going to be sorry.

    Range extenders sound great until people realize performance drops dramatically with a depleted battery, where the tiny range extender is doing all the work. (However, I think the Volt didn’t really have this problem due to its robust ICE design). The range extender won’t be a Hemi.

    It would be far better for people to manage a BEV solution with its limitations, than to be dissatisfied with a range extender. I’d prefer the nice Pentastar over any range extender.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right electric motors have max torque at low rpm, but can they haul a dozen round bails at 80 mph, like they do in Texas with their Cummings Ram dually? Also I thought the range extender mostly charged up the batteries.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Sure, but at great cost to range.

        Yes, range extenders are basically battery chargers, so they can’t keep up with full-load operation. Expecting them to do so will lead to sadness.

        If someone wants an electrified truck, either a true hybrid or BEV is best, IMO.

        • 0 avatar

          The problem with the i3’s was it’s implementation. The thing to do is to set it up so you can turn on the engine when the battery still has a significant amount of charge, like 75% and then a small engine would do the trick and extend the range significantly w/o a loss ability.

      • 0 avatar

        Electric motors (often fed by a diesel generator) are what motivates the locomotives that are pulling your 4,000-ton freight train across Mullan Pass in Montana. The load-hauling capacity of electric motors is not an issue.

    • 0 avatar

      My ICE truck also loses 50% of it’s 450-mile range when towing.

      When you make your vehicle twice as big, it takes twice as much energy to move it, and it goes half as far. It’s not hard to wrap your head around — even though a bunch of engineers (myself included) will debate the details for months.

      • 0 avatar

        @luke42: There’s this cool little trailer that will let your EV keep all of its range while towing. It has its own drive motors and battery to take the load off of the towing vehicle:

    • 0 avatar

      I think Stellantis is just trying to keep up with the Jones’s. And the Fords, the Hummers, the Rivians and the Cubertrucks if it ever materializes. Bold talk from a company with a very old and ever shrinking portfolio. I’m sure their effort will be half hearted, lackluster, overpriced and underperforming.

    • 0 avatar

      Darn that “speed and weather.” Arrgh. Always ruining towing. And EV claims of towing.

    • 0 avatar

      50% is optimistic. TFL had some interesting towing tests with real world charging scenarios. And because the packs are so big, at existing charging stations the times for charging were very long.

  • avatar

    I’ve always wondered if the original Chevy Volt, and the BMW i3, would have been more successful, if they weren’t so……derpy-looking. Or if they had been SUV’s instead of………derpy-looking. We’ll never know.

    That first generation of electric vehicles sure made it look like one of the requirements of being an electric vehicle was that it had to look entirely stupid (also looking at you, Nissan Leaf).

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      You’re not wrong, but the Leaf sold pretty well for a while. Today, the Leaf 2.0 is an also-ran. As an option, Nissan offered a giant “ZERO EMISSION” banner for both sides of the car. Nothing like telling the world you drive a science project.

      Personally, I thought both generations of the Volt looked good (and yes, better than the concept), but it was/is pretty small inside. I think the Volt was simply eclipsed by BEV advancements that made its added ICE complexity obsolete.

      The i3 had captured rear doors (can’t think of the right term for them), and was very expensive. It also had odd tires sizes. It’s derpy-looking, but quick. People took their $60k over to Tesla instead.

  • avatar

    Range extender. Heh.

  • avatar

    How big of a “Range Extender” do you need to expand the range of a 6k lbs. truck towing even a 5k lb. trailer? I’m guessing, ohh… 5.7L arranged in a unique “V-8” configuration?

    • 0 avatar

      If Ram could count on even a modicum of competence among the buyers for this, they wouldn’t need that big of an engine. Towing 5K across flat ground, even at 80 into a headwind, doesn’t take that much. The driver just have to be sentient enough to know when, in advance of upcoming hills, to start topping up the battery, based on how far he is planning to go, the route he wants to follow etc.

  • avatar

    Just as with the Postal Service trucks, the obvious compromise is a hybrid. Even if a V8 is doing most of the work on a full size truck with a heavy load, every little MPG gain helps when the truck is empty. Considering how many 4-door Ram 1500’s I’ve seen used as full size sedans, the fuel saving could be significant.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s no doubt the half ton 4-door pickup has become the family ride of the post 2000 era.

    • 0 avatar

      A well-executed hybrid can be a goldilocks solution. Can even have some very cool advantages (e.g. Ford’s Pro Power) without any notable performance compromises.

      The downside is the net complexity of having 2 drive-trains to maintain over the life of the vehicle. Fuel use will cleanly beat down a pure ICE (e.g. the Mav’s 37 vs. 24mpg hybrid advantage) but TCO may or may not finish on top (depending on purchase price and maintenance).

  • avatar

    Fail- or is it flail?

  • avatar

    When my laptop and phone lasts a full day on a charge, only then will I begin to think EVs are worth consideration.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    A range extender that could be removed for in-town use and deployed only for trips would make sense. The challenge is, any engine that could sustain a pickup while towing something on the highway would be too heavy to maneuver into and out of the vehicle. This could perhaps be solved with clever engineering.

    • 0 avatar

      You can buy a gen set with a 1 liter Kubota diesel for about 12 grand. Strap it in the bed or tow behind. Bring a case of beer to drink while that 8000 watter tops up your 1500 lbs of batteries.

      • 0 avatar

        I know a guy with a trailer, towed by a Tesla SUV, which has tiedowns specifically for a 7000W Honda..

        The generator is primarily for use at his off grid cabin, but has saved hos rear on at least one unexpectedly cold drive through the Sierras…. The thing is, BEV guys are already very vigilant about range, where the nearest chargers are etc. So even a comparatively slow charging generator, can fairly quickly get them to the nearest charger. It won’t really work for rambling around backroads in the Yukon and Northwest territory midwinter.

  • avatar

    At worst, the extender can simply charge up a depleted battery while the car sits.

    So, one key element of EV range anxiety disappears b/c any old gas station will do.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    The trick to this is to design it like the Volt. It’s an EV, Parallel & Series hybrid all in one. GM coined the Volt as an extended range EV, but the gas engine doesn’t function as a range extender only. I believe that was the big fail with the I3. Once the battery was depleted performance fell flat & you didn’t even have a real car anymore. No such compromises with the Volt. Even running 75MPH on the interstate I still get 40 MPG running on gas after the battery has been depleted. At that speed the engine is coupling to the drive wheels(parallel hybrid) and helping to propel the car. At lower speeds it will run like a locomotive(series hybrid). With a charged battery it will run at 100 MPH on nothing but electrons. Gets there rather quickly!…….LOL

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    I believe one thing the electric pickup manufacturers have failed to address is charging stations for those that tow. Virtually every one I’ve seen the cars/trucks pull in nose first.

    Towing a trailer this is not a good setup. The amount of real estate that it would require for multiple trucks with trailers to recharge would be considerable. Nose first isn’t good so it’d have to be pull through.

    Could you imagine the line of there were a dozen or more vehicles with trailers that needed charging like you see at various truck stops with the diesel pickups and trailers? At least it only take a few minutes to pump 35 gallons of diesel.

  • avatar

    The i3 was knee capped to meet regulations as a pure EV. If you can avoid that and set the range extender to charge based on actual demand and use cases, it seems like it’s a pretty good idea.

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