Chrysler's Ram PHEV trucks take to the streets

Image: PHEV Ram 1500.jpg

Ram 1500 trucks were assembled at the Warren Truck Assembly plant in Michigan and then converted to PHEVs at Chrysler's Auburn Hills Technology Center.


The May 2011 launch of a three-year demonstration program will put 140 Ram 1500 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) pickup trucks through a testing regimen that will have the full attention of Chrysler engineers. The multimillion dollar project will feature a wide assortment of data collected and transmitted to Chrysler technical specialists by a cellular interface with each of the trucks.

"We expect to have more than 6 million miles of real-world driving at the conclusion of this demonstration program," Abdullah Bazzi, Chrysler Group's Senior Manager of Integration Management for Electrified Powertrain Propulsion Systems, said during a Ram 1500 PHEV ride and drive with AEI at U.S. Congressman John Dingell's Earth Day auto program. The Taylor, MI, event featured eco-friendly vehicles from Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.

Local and state governments, utility companies, and a U.S. Army base are among the final destination points for the vehicles. They will be fitted with a lithium-ion battery pack, 6.6-kW onboard charger, full regenerative braking, a front axle disconnect for boosting fuel economy, as well as a two-mode hybrid automatic transmission and a 5.7-L Hemi V8 engine.

"We're putting these vehicles in diverse geographies and climates. We'll be looking at different cycles and consumer usage patterns throughout North American, including Arizona, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, and North Dakota. We'll also monitor charging-mode performance and ac power generation," said Bazzi.

Technology transfers are likely for battery electric vehicles as well as PHEVs. "What we learn in the area of controls and calibration are the big enablers for other applications," said Bazzi.

Using the Ram 1500 as the platform for a PHEV was based on the availability of a two-mode transmission that Chrysler used in the 2009 Aspen/Durango full-size SUV hybrid program. "Also, the unique feature of ac power generation lends itself more to a truck customer as does the eventual introduction of having a vehicle capable of providing power flow to the grid," explained Bazzi. The transfer of power between grid and vehicle is through a Level II service equipment charge port located above the rear bumper, according to Bazzi.

"While still a demonstration project, the Ram 1500 PHEV will be the first pickup truck with a V8 engine that meets the requirements of an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle," said Bazzi. It will also be the first pickup truck with a fully integrated 6.6-kW onboard charger, 6.6-kW ac power generating capability, smart bidirectional charging, and reverse power flow. "And, the Ram 1500 plug-in hybrid will still be capable of towing up to 6,000 lbs," proclaimed Bazzi.

For the 100 engineers involved with the project, the most challenging aspects to date have been the battery pack's performance in extreme ambient conditions, the integration of the thermal management system, and the charging system.

"Extensive testing and vehicle development was performed under a range of environmental conditions. We're confident that we have addressed the issues. Now it's time for the real-world testing," said Bazzi.

Toronto-based Electrovaya is supplying the 12.1-kW·h lithium-ion SuperPolymer battery system that is packaged under the truck's second-row seat and "comprised of 96 cells mounted in series," Bruce Coventry, Vice President of Operations at Electrovaya, told AEI.

According to Bazzi, the charge-depleting city cycle fuel economy for the Ram is 32 mpg. The all-electric range is 20 mi (32 km).

Chrysler has invested $49.5 million in the Ram PHEV project. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the $2.4 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is contributing $48 million. As such, certain data will be shared with the DOE.

Nancy Gioia, Ford Motor Co.'s Director of Global Electrification, supports information sharing on noncompetitive issues relating to electrified vehicles. The Ram project is similar to that of the Ford Escape PHEV's, which launched in 2007, in that both demonstration programs received DOE grant monies. "The sharing of data becomes a reciprocal of new knowledge generation and creation," Gioia said in an AEI interview.

NextEnergy, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and others will be involved in the data analysis and power utility grid interface. Michigan State University and the University of Michigan-Dearborn are involved in design/development activities, while the University of California-Davis is leading customer usage and human/machine interface activities.

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