Ram electric pickup will have combustion range extender: CEO

Lithium-ion batteries, the EV industry’s favorite, have a hard cap on their energy density, and vehicles using them can only achieve a certain range. For this reason, even groundbreaking electric pickup trucks like the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning and 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV will not be able to be owned by those who, for one reason or another, need the flexibility and range of a combustion engine. This is where on-board generators extend runtime should come but not yet. Which brings us to the upcoming Ram 1500 EV, which the Ram CEO confirmed today will offer a “breakthrough” range extender when it debuts in 2024.

Ram CEO Mike Koval Jr. confirmed the feature to EV pulse in an interview at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show, stating that Ram’s electric pickup will “outrun” competitors using this range extender – usually a small gas or diesel engine that runs to recharge the battery on the fly.

That’s the limit of what Koval had to say about the truck, but the advantages of an RXEV pickup and its disadvantages are quite clear. An RXEV combines nearly all the benefits of both powertrains, boasting the quiet, efficient and responsive operation of an electric vehicle as well as the greater fuel flexibility of a combustion engine. A range extender is especially handy on longer trips (or when towing) by reducing the load on the battery, thereby improving range, as the name suggests. In 2020, we discovered a patent that showed Ford was dreaming up replaceable, plug-and-play range extenders that can fit into the bed of an electric pickup truck disguised as a toolbox, although it there has been no sign of it going into production on the F-150 Lightning at this point.

Because at the same time, an RXEV is not an outright superior vehicle to a battery-only EV. Including what amounts to two powertrains greatly increases complexity, and therefore cost, while the range extender also adds weight and suffers from power conversion inefficiencies, so it probably won’t pull the most of the fuel it burns. Also, even though it is small, the range extender will still take up a lot of space, reducing overall storage and in some cases usefulness.

Still, the flexibility offered by an RXEV will be the tipping point for at least a few drivers who otherwise wouldn’t consider a truck more electrified than a hybrid, and it won’t be surprising if we hear Ford or GM considering a range of production-extended Lightnings or Silverado EVs of their own.

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Kevin A. Perras