Meet the Detroit Concept Truck That Is the Final Nail in the Coffin for Traditional Pickups
Whether we like it or not, the electrification revolution is well underway. Our current EV technology could well replace traditional cars. We don’t yet have the technology to build electric trucks capable of long-haul towing. But the “Ramcharger” concept by Stellantis is a unique hybrid unveiled in November 2023. To my surprise, this electric towing beast looks like the final nail in the coffin of the traditional pickup truck.
A possible electric future, with our current technology
You’ve probably noticed that electric vehicles are 40% more expensive than comparable cars and SUVs. They are also much heavier. Lithium-ion batteries are to blame for both of these downsides. So, while there are some ultra-luxury EVs with crazy 500+ mile ranges, these won’t be the solution for most of us.
There are electric vehicles that excel at long road trips. These are smaller cars that use their small size, low weight, and good aerodynamics to get more miles/kWh than their competitors. They also top off quickly thanks to advanced 400-volt or even 800-volt charging systems. Think Tesla’s Model 3 or Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 crossover.
The above examples can charge for 20-30 minutes and then drive for three hours. This means they don’t need a big, heavy battery and can be surprisingly cheap. With a rapidly improving fast-charger network, this configuration looks to be the EV of the future.
There’s only one problem: this technology doesn’t scale up to electric pickup trucks. Towing slices an electric truck’s range in half. So, towing as much as a V8 truck would require such a huge lithium-ion battery pack that an electric truck would be a six-figure purchase. It would also take hours to recharge during long-haul towing. I thought electric trucks would have to wait for someone to invent a better battery than lithium-ion. Then, Ram debuted a new EV concept that could replace the traditional pickup.
The Ramcharger is an electric truck with a gas-powered generator
The Ramcharger is a variant of Ram’s half-ton EV, set to hit dealerships in late 2025 (the Ram 1500 REV). Like the Ram EV, it has electric drive units at each axle and a lithium-ion battery between its frame rails. But unlike the regular Ram EV, the Ramcharger has a V6 engine instead of a “frunk.” This ICE is not connected to the wheels. Its only job is to recharge the battery.
If this configuration sounds familiar, it may be because it is, in many ways, a miniaturized version of current locomotive technology. Obviously, locomotives are diesel, and their generators are hooked up directly to electric drive units–instead of having a lithium-ion battery in between. But the Ramcharger has even less in common with current hybrid pickup trucks.
Other hybrid pickup trucks (such as the Tundra i-FORCE MAX and Ford PowerBoost) have an electric drive unit sandwiched between their gas engine and transmission. Even in electric mode, this unit has to spin the transmission and full drivetrain. This means they don’t get the low-end torque or limited number of moving parts that EVs enjoy.
The Ramcharger, on the other hand, has 663 horsepower, 615 lb-ft of torque (all available form zero RPM), a 14,000-pound towing capacity, a 2,625-pound payload capacity, a 4.4-second time to 60 MPH, and a combined electric/gas range of 690 miles on one tank/charge. As much as I love traditional pickup trucks, that’s a set of stats impossible to ignore.
If you were to plug in your Ramcharger at home every night, your first 145 miles of driving every day would be all-electric, meaning it would cost a fraction as much as driving a gas truck. But even after the V6 has to fire up, the Ramcharger will probably get two or even three times as many MPG as a traditional V6 Ram 1500. Why? Its engine can limp along at a steady RPM while the battery keeps enough surplus voltage for acceleration.
Will the hybrid Ramcharger be reliable?
I’ll admit, I am suspect of hybrid vehicles’ reliability. With two full powertrains, they seem far too complex to run long term without sinking a bundle into repairs. But the numbers prove me wrong: hybrids are now more reliable than regular cars.
How could this be? It appears that while hybrids have two powertrains, all their components work together to last even longer than a traditional car. For example, electric drive units can launch the car from a standstill while the traditional engine has time to warm up. The drive units also reverse during braking to charge up the battery and save a lot of wear and tear on the traditional hydraulic brakes.
I’m not going to tell you I know for sure that the very first generation of the Ramcharger will be reliable. I obviously don’t know yet. But I do know that Ram is making some interesting reliability-oriented decisions.
For example, Stellantis has a whole portfolio of light new turbocharged engines it could have thrown at the Ramcharger for the range-extender motor. Instead, it went with the tried-and-true Pentastar V6. This engine has proven it can last forever. Using it should also keep the Ramcharger’s initial price down.
I’m hoping that someday, this range-extended EV configuration will be the default for electric trucks. I hope they come with electric drive units that last hundreds of thousands of miles, batteries that are easy to swap (or a future battery chemistry that lasts longer), and range-extender engines that are easy to pull out and swap or upgrade. I hope they drive down the cost-per-mile of operating a heavy-duty truck.
I’m sure the Ramcharger won’t be perfect. But I’m thrilled to see Ram is considering the needs of the average business owner or tradesperson who regularly uses their truck for towing. And I am happy they are at least trying to build a lower-cost and more reliable electric vehicle for us.
Next, read about an alternative to the combustion ban, or see the Ramcharger hybrid pickup truck for yourself in the video below: