Dual electric motors give the Ram 1500 Ramcharger full-size pickup truck 663 combined horsepower and a maximum tow rating of 14,000 pounds.
Power comes from a 70.8-kWh battery that delivers 145 miles of unladen range, plus a Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 hooked to a generator that boosts combined range to 690 miles.
This makes the Ramcharger a plug-in hybrid, but because the engine only generates electricity, this is a series hybrid with pure electric motor propulsion.
Pure electric pickup trucks have a problem: They're not particularly good at the towing and hauling missions that are the usual reasons people buy pickups. It's not the act of towing itself that's the problem, because the steady seamless pull of electric motors makes towing and hauling feel effortless. What's more, there's no transmission that must downshift to climb grades, no resulting high-rpm wail accompanied by loud cooling fans.
What's the problem? Bad things happen when a load is added, particularly the load of a trailer. Tow range is cut in half, or worse. Recharge times are double to triple the usual wait because you'll arrive close to empty and feel the need to fill to the brim because of the diminished range. When charging, you'll likely have to disconnect your trailer because pull-through fast charge stations are rare. Furthermore, fast-chargers are mainly sprinkled along interstate corridors, so options are limited if you want to tow your Airstream to some secluded off-the-grid campsite.
Ramcharger to the Rescue
The Ramcharger is designed to neatly circumvent all of this because it is not a pure electric vehicle. Not quite, anyway. Yes, it is propelled exclusively by a pair of electric motors: a 335-hp one powering the front axle and a 319-hp unit out back. When both are running at full chat, they combine to produce 663 horses of peak power and 615 pound-feet of maximum torque. In that sense, the Ramcharger is a pure electrically powered truck, and that brings with it all of the effortless towing smoothness of pure electrics such as a Ford F-150 Lightning or a Rivian R1T. (We pointed out to Ram that 335 hp + 319 hp is 9 hp shy of 663 hp, but company reps insist that 663 is the correct maximum output.)
The difference is how those motors are powered. Up to 145 miles of pure electric range comes from a liquid-cooled lithium battery with 92 kilowatt-hours of gross capacity and 70.8 kWh of usable capacity. When the usable portion runs down and the system goes into what is known a "charge sustaining" mode, the necessary electricity then comes from a 3.6-liter gasoline V-6 engine that is hooked solely to a generator. This configuration makes the Ramcharger a plug-in hybrid, but the fact that the engine never directly turns the wheels and only runs the generator makes it a rarer bird: a plug-in series hybrid. This is a good thing because it operates like your average diesel-electric locomotive when running on gasoline. Last time we checked, train engines are particularly good at towing.
Flat Ground, No Load
The 70.8-kWh battery is said to be good for 145 miles of combined driving. But electrically driven vehicles tend to deliver more range in the city and less on the highway because their powertrains are direct-drive and operate in just one gear. Expect highway range to be lower, city range to be better. The same applies to the 690 miles of total range, which is still subject to the same effects because the Ramcharger is always electrically driven.
Those numbers (which are development targets and not confirmed ratings) work out to 545 miles of gasoline-fueled electric driving, although Ram has not revealed expected gasoline fuel economy. But we can make an educated guess, because they do say the fuel tank holds 27 gallons. The math says 20 mpg combined is likely if they hit their targets, with city mpg being slightly better and highway mpg slightly worse.
Those 145 miles of battery range will likely drop to less than half that when towing, but the generator keeps the rig rolling after that. The generator in question is rated at 174 horsepower of continuous output. That doesn't sound like any way to keep up while towing 14,000 pounds, but a Ram powertrain engineer we spoke to says this is plenty. On generator power, you can cruise a flat interstate at 65 mph with a max load trailer until the fuel tank needs to be refilled. Tow something like 7000 pounds, and it only gets better.
The ups and downs of rolling terrain are covered by dipping into the unused portion of the battery on the upslope, then shuffling some power back into the battery when easing off and regenerating on the downslope. If the load gets more intense, the system can run the generator up to its peak output of 255 horsepower. But there's always battery power standing behind that, so the occasional short bursts that need more power than that should always be possible.
Headed for the mountains? Select Tow mode, and the charge-sustaining set-aside percentage is increased to 35 percent, up from the normal 23 percent. The V-6 engine and generator set will come online earlier, and the generator will run closer to peak output more of the time. Between that and the enlarged Tow mode battery reserve, Ram says the Ramcharger should be more than able to tackle the kind of long, steep grades found in the mountain West.
That checks out, because we've towed up long western grades with EVs, and the upslopes don't last nearly as long as you imagine. Electricity use certainly spikes up, but we're not talking dozens of miles at a time with no letup. There are always ups and downs, and there's always more left at the summit than we expected. Here an engine and generator have your back, and you'll gain a lot back on the way down the other side.
The Reality of Ownership
Like many personal pickups, towing and hauling is an activity that buyers plan for but don't often do—particularly at the extremes of maximum payload and towing. They're air haulers much of the time, and in that sense 145 miles of battery range will make this a smooth-driving electric truck most of the time. Road trips that don't involve towing won't be any issue because the V-6 generator, which is sized for 14,000 pounds-worth of trailer, won't have to work hard at all.
How will towing work out in reality? The underlying drive feeling will remain smooth, steady, and shift-free because of the pure electric propulsion, but how will the sound of a hard-working V-6 generator affect the aural experience? That remains to be seen, and it's one of the biggest unknowns that will have to wait until we get our hands on a production-ready sample next year.
But that's small potatoes compared to the Ramcharger's biggest towing benefit: You'll never have to go searching for a charger on a road trip whether you're towing or not. All you need is a gas pump that peddles 87 octane.
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