The upcoming 2025 Ram Ramcharger is an interesting beast, even beyond its double-barelled moniker. The truck looks to offer serious power and long range between refills and recharges thanks to its series hybrid setup. Here at The Autopian, we’ve been doing the sums on this setup, and we’re interested in the mileage this new rig will achieve.
Full specifications for the Ramcharger aren’t yet available, and we’ve asked Ram for more details on MPG, and they’re not ready to announce that. What we do know is that the new truck will have two electric motors driving the wheels, good for a full 663 horsepower. It will also carry a big V6 engine running on gasoline. However, this engine will solely be used to charge the truck’s large 92 kWh battery, and will not drive the wheels mechanically. The battery is expected to offer 145 miles of range in pure EV operation, while the 27 gallon fuel tank is said to extend the truck’s total range to 690 miles all up.
It’s those latter figures that have us curious. If we subtract the EV range from the total combined range, we get a figure of 545 miles being contributed by the gasoline engine. If you drive 545 miles on 27 gallons of gas, you’re getting a fuel economy figure of about 20 mpg.
It bears noting that this is just a back-of-the-envelope figure from incomplete information, and is not a combined figure including the battery’s contribution. It shouldn’t be regarded as an official figure, and it doesn’t come from any proper EPA city/highway/combined testing schedule.
It’s worth putting that figure into context. The existing 2023 Ram 1500 equipped with the mild-hybrid Pentastar V6 with eTorque (almost certainly a significantly lighter truck) gets 20 mpg and 25 mpg highway. Thus, the figure is around about in the right ballpark for a big heavy truck. Sure, hybrids can be really efficient at times, but you’re simply not going to get a full-sized truck like the Ramcharger posting the same figures as something like a comparatively tiny BMW i3, which delivers somewhere in the ballpark of 35 mpg from its range-extender engine.
One question that will be of interest to owners will be how the Ramcharger’s gasoline engine works at different states of charge. Generally, a series hybrid won’t run its range extending engine at full battery, as the power generated would have nowhere to go. Typically, the engine would be fired up when the battery is at around a 75% state of charge or lower if it’s desired to keep the battery range available for later in a trip. (ex: if you wanted to just use the gas engine on the highway so that, when you arrive in the city, you can maximize vehicle efficiency using EV mode. -DT].
There may indeed be a certain point on the battery’s state-of-charge curve at which charging via the range extender is most efficient. Ram could implement this as a “efficiency” mode, where the battery is kept roughly at this level while the generator is running. This could allow the engine to run at a steady, efficient operating point and not have to adapt to the energy needs of the vehicle as it attempts steep grades and tows – with the semi-charged battery acting as a “buffer” to allow this.
If the battery is allowed to run down before kicking the engine on (i.e. if the battery is empty), the driving experience changes. With the battery empty, there would not be enough juice to run the Ramcharger’s 663 horsepower motors at full power. The truck would be limited to the 174 horsepower from the generator hooked up to the Pentastar V6, which could be running flat-out. Thus, it might be desirable to have the range extender setup to run in such a way that there’s always some battery power left to keep good acceleration on tap at all times and to keep the ICE running efficiently.
It bears noting that historically, certain series hybrids have been restricted in their mode of operation due to government regulations. The BMW i3, for example, was originally setup in the US to only engage its range extender when the battery state of charge (SOC) reached 6%. This, as I understand it, was done to fit into the restrictive BEVx category laid out by CARB in 2012 to secure thousands of dollars in government credits for vehicles sold.
It specified range-extended electric vehicles had to have a longer range on battery power than on gas. In other markets, like Europe, i3 owners were able to engage their range-extenders at a 75% SOC or lower. Like many series hybrids, the i3 has a range extender with less power than its motor can deliver. Thus, when these vehicles run out of battery power, they are power-limited. In the i3’s case, this meant that if the range extender kicked in at a 6% SOC, and the car then encountered a big hill, the driver would at times be unable to maintain full highway speeds.
Part of me hopes Ram wouldn’t hobble the Ramcharger, a pickup truck meant to do hard work, in such a way just to score some government credits. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see how Ram calibrates the range extender for use in varying contexts, like long-range use, towing, and city driving. Regardless, with 690 miles of combined range, you shouldn’t have too much trouble making it to a gas station with something left in the battery and in the tank.
Some may question whether the Ramcharger could have gotten by with a smaller, more efficient engine as a range extender. However, engineers behind the project likely chose the Pentastar engine for a variety of reasons. For one, it’s probably easiest to stick with an engine that’s already built to work with the Ram 1500 platform, and nestles perfectly in the engine bay. Engineering another engine to suit, and going through all the emissions checks and so on would add cost.
Plus, there’s the simple fact of wanting to keep a certain base level of power on tap when the batteries are empty. The range extender wouldn’t be as enticing if it was useless when towing, for example, because Ram made it too small and weedy. There’s a certain base level of power the end user will expect from their truck.
Ultimately, the Ramcharger is a very exciting proposition. It could be the harbinger of a new age of heavy-duty series hybrids, that can work all day and all night without excessive downtime to recharge. Or, it could be seen as an overcomplicated truck that makes compromises to run on gasoline and electric power. If Ram can make it easy to use, pleasant to drive, and just efficient enough to be worthwhile, it could just have a winner on its hands.