AUBURN HILLS, MI - The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Chrysler Group a grant that the automaker will use to build 140 plug-in hybrid Ram trucks for a demonstration project. 

The Ram PHEVs will be part of a three-year demonstration project. The grant funding of up to $48 million will come from a $2.4 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act DOE Vehicle Electrification program. 

"This initiative represents how government, automotive industry, suppliers and key partners are reaching common goals and demonstrates how rapidly this type of advanced technology can be brought to market," said Paolo Ferrero, senior vice president of powertrain for Chrysler Group LLC. "DOE support for domestic advanced technology is an important enabler for Chrysler Group and its key suppliers in order to understand and test customer acceptance and the capability of PHEV systems in a variety of real-world conditions." 

The Ram PHEV features Chrysler Group's 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with a two-mode hybrid transmission and a 12KwHr lithium-ion battery. The vehicle is capable of up to 20 miles of zero-emission, pure-electric range without the need for gasoline. An overall fuel economy improvement of more than 65 percent is expected for average drive cycles. Chrysler Group has partnered with Electrovaya Inc. to supply the advanced lithium-ion batteries for the Ram PHEV test fleet. 

The DOE grant will expedite the development of vehicle-electrification technology, Chrysler said. More than 21 Chrysler partners across the U.S. -- including utility companies, government agencies and universities -- will independently test the Ram PHEV and provide data for the advancement of the technology. 

In 2008, Chrysler announced the company's intention to bring a Ram Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) to market. But after evaluating the response to hybrid pickups in the marketplace, the company said it could not formulate an appropriate business case and has decided to cancel development work on the 2011 Ram HEV. 

Chrysler said its alliance with Fiat Group brings new platforms and technologies that allow the company to create an improved long-term product strategy with greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. 

Originally posted on Green Fleet Magazine