In January, just days before the big North American International Auto Show in Detroit, when automakers reveal their hottest vehicle introductions and innovations for the year, Dodge Trucks announced that a gas-electric hybrid version of its recently re-engineered Ram 1500 pickup was in development and would roll out "sometime in 2010."
The move would make the Ram only the second (or third, depending on how you count) full-size pickup to have a hybrid power train, along with the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra "two-mode hybrid" twins. Dodge company spokesmen would not reveal when during the year the hybrid 1500 would hit the road, or provide any details like anticipated fuel savings, additional buyer cost, or power specifications. Although the 2010 Ram 1500 was showcased at the NAIAS event, a hybrid concept vehicle or engine model was not displayed.
According to one industry insider, the hybrid power train to be used in the Ram is similar to the two-mode hybrid now available in the GM pickups. It was developed as a cooperative venture between General Motors, BMW, and Daimler/Chrysler in the 1990s, when the parent company of Dodge was allied with German automaker Mercedes-Benz. Chrysler briefly equipped 2009 Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs with two-mode hybrid power trains before the vehicles were discontinued for 2010.
Two-mode hybrids incorporate powerful electric-drive motors within the vehicle's transmission housing. A conventional gasoline-powered engine provides primary power and recharges an onboard 300-volt niMH battery, which enables the gas engine to shut down at times while the electric motors propel the vehicle from a dead stop to around 30 mph, helping to conserve fuel and reduce engine emissions.