With electric vehicle sales growth slowing, Stellantis Ram brand has an answer: An onboard charger

Nov 6, 2023, 5:27 PM

DETROIT (AP) — One of the biggest reasons people cite when saying they won’t buy an electric vehicle is range anxiety, the fear of running out of juice on the road with nowhere to recharge.

Stellantis’ Ram brand may have an answer for that, especially for people who need a truck to haul or tow things. It’s called the Ramcharger, a pickup that can travel 145 miles (235 kilometers) on electricity, with a 3.6-liter V6 gas-powered engine linked to a generator that can recharge the battery while the truck is moving.

Electric vehicle sales growth is starting to slow, causing automakers to rethink huge investments in the historic transition from internal combustion to electric powertrains. Polls show the reasons are cost, as well as limited range and too few charging stations, unlike gas stations that almost always are nearby.

“There’s so many advantages to a battery electric vehicle, but there are certain things that are slowing people down,” says Tim Kuniskis, CEO of the Ram brand. With the Ramcharger, Kuniskis says he can tell customers “you don’t have to worry about it with this.”

Stellantis, which has been slow to introduce fully electric vehicles in the U.S., is so confident in the new powertrain’s appeal that it plans to offer it in other vehicles. While the company won’t officially comment, a new tentative contract agreement with the United Auto Workers says Stellantis plans to use the same power system in the Jeep Wrangler small SUV in 2028, and the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer large SUVs in 2025.

The Ramcharger, due in showrooms toward the end of next year, uses 663 horsepower to go from zero to 60 miles per hour (zero to 97 kilometers per hour) in 4.4 seconds, the company says. And when the battery is fully charged and the generator’s 27-gallon (102-liter) gas tank is full, it can go up to 690 miles (1,110 kilometers). The truck also can tow a trailer weighing up to 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms), more than the current Ram pickup with a V8 engine.

The battery also can be charged at home or at a direct-current fast-charging station, where it can take in enough electricity to add 50 miles (80 kilometers) of range in about 10 minutes, Stellantis says. With a two-direction home charging station, the truck can power your home in a storm, as well as tools on a job site, Ram engineers said.

Other companies offer gas-electric hybrid trucks for efficiency, and Ford’s can also power a house or tools at work. There also are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that can travel a shorter distance on electricity before a hybrid powertrain kicks in.

The Ramcharger is unique, Stellantis says, because the gas engine simply produces electricity to charge the battery and doesn’t turn the wheels directly.

Although Kuniskis wouldn’t release projections, he said more than 20% of Ram sales will have to be powered at least partly by electricity in order to meet upcoming U.S. government fuel economy and emissions requirements. Earlier this year, Stellantis unveiled a fully electric Ram pickup called the REV.

Stellantis had the worst fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions of any major automaker, according to a 2022 report by the Environmental Protection Agency.

There’s a segment of truck shoppers who want the performance of an electric vehicle but don’t want to sacrifice range or towing, said Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid. High prices have kept many away from electric pickups offered by Ford, General Motors and Rivian, so Stellantis will have to keep the price reasonable, he said.

“They have a package that could be the right mix for people that would like to be able to go electric, have the performance of an electric powertrain but also still have that confidence to go long distances and tow a boat or jet skis,” he said. “They can just stop and put gas in it.”

Demand for electric vehicles in the U.S. has started to level off after a couple of years of huge growth. In August, for example, automakers sold almost 111,000 EVs, equating to 8.3% of the total market. But in September, sales dropped to just under 106,000, or 7.9% of the market.

August EV sales were up almost 60% from a year earlier, but in September, the year-over-year growth rate dropped to 56%, according to Motorintelligence.com. Analysts say EV inventory is growing and prices are dropping as demand levels off.

The Recharger is part of a revamped lineup of Ram pickups that will reach showrooms starting early next year with an internal combustion engine version. The new trucks have upgraded interiors, suspensions and bodies, with a new RAM badge mounted higher on the grille.

The Ram 1500 pickup will come with an optional new twin-turbo 3-liter straight-line six-cylinder engine with up to 540 horsepower. The new engine is more powerful than the Hemi V8 that it replaces, Stellantis said.

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With electric vehicle sales growth slowing, Stellantis Ram brand has an answer: An onboard charger