by Patrick Rall

    The Ram Truck Brand has officially delivered the first group of new PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) Ram 1500 pickups to the municipal services of Yuma, Arizona.  These 10 unique trucks are the first of 140 Hybrid Hemi Rams slated for delivery to various municipalities, military locations and commercial use sites around the United States for part of a 3-year field test to see how this technology performs in the real world.

    The Ram 1500 PHEV units are powered by the mighty 5.7L Hemi – churning
    out 390 horsepower and 407lb-ft of torque – making it one of the most
    powerful half ton pickups on the market.  Thanks to Chrysler’s Multiple
    Displacement System (MDS) shutting down 4 of the 8 cylinders when full
    power isn’t needed, the Hemi is also one of the more fuel efficient
    motors, offering 14mpg around town and 20mpg on the open road. 

    PHEV Rams are also equipped with a two-mode hybrid transmission mated
    to a 12.9kWhr lithium ion battery pack with the power levels of the
    battery system bolstered by directional charging, reverse power flow and
    full regenerative braking along with a traditional onboard 6.6kW
    charger.  The final piece of fuel saving technology applied to the PHEV
    Ram pickups is a front axle disconnect feature that prevents the Ram
    from having to work hard to drive extra components when 4WD is not

    The battery pack for the Ram 1500 PHEV is located under the second row
    of seats (all of these vehicles are 4-door models) with a liquid cooling
    system traveling to the batteries to help maintain a consistent
    temperature during use.  Considering that these are work trucks and they
    have a powerful electrical system, Chrysler engineers even installed a
    240 volt/30 amp four-prong outlet and a 120volt/20amp duplex outlet
    strip in the bed for easy use of power tools on the job site.

    Sadly, Chrysler points out that at this time there are no plans to offer
    a production version of the Ram 1500 PHEV to the consumer market.  They
    refer to this as a “demonstration program”, working in conjunction with
    the US Dept of Energy to examine the real world performance of this
    hybrid system under the rigors of commercial use.  This three-year
    program will give the Dept of Energy and the Chrysler Group a chance to
    closely look at issues like customer usage, drive cycles, charging
    issues, the impact of varying temperature controls, fuel economy,
    emissions and impact on the region’s electric grid – although it seems
    unlikely to me that 10 PHEV Rams in the Yuma area will have any noticeable
    impact on their electric grid.  But that is the kind of thing that this
    program will examine.  There are a total of 12 locations around the US
    receiving these fuel-sipping Hemi Rams, including various locations in
    Arizona, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, Texas and

    Chrysler also plans to introduce 25 Town & Country minivans later
    this year with a similar hybrid setup with the locations and benefactors
    of those vehicles being announced closer to their debut.