Yuma city employees will field test the trucks over the next three years. They will undergo evaluation for how well the plug-in hybrid electric trucks run in the Arizona heat.
The City of Yuma is the first participant in the national demonstration fleet of 140 vehicles. Chrysler and the DOE will also be testing the trucks in other various states including California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Dakota and Texas. The vehicles in these locations will be tested for their reaction to the temperature extremes, urban traffic cycles and diverse climates and geographies.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contributed $48 million in grant funding for the DOE’s Transportation Electrification Initiative, while Chrysler contributed another $49.4 million in funding to the project. This partnership represents an important initiative to reduce dependence on foreign oil and develop electric vehicles for consumers that are both cost and fuel efficient and address concerns associated with safety and daily travel.
Chrysler Group will collect usage data via satellite that will evaluate customer usage, drive cycles, charging, thermal management, fuel economy, emissions and impact on the region’s electric grid.
This partnership is a welcome relief to participating municipalities as many municipalities are facing budgetary constraints. Participating municipalities are required to drive the vehicles 16,800 miles per year and are responsible for routine maintenance.
“There’s a match here between our needs and Chrysler’s needs,” said Yuma City Administrator Greg Wilkinson. “We’re obviously excited to get to test these vehicles to supplement our existing fleet and to get them at a time when funding in the budget to get new vehicles has been tight.”
Dodge Ram makers want these demo trucks to maintain Ram’s edge as a powerful and reliable vehicle where new hybrid technology joins its trademark hemi engine. The Ram 1500 PHEV power train includes a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine with 390-horsepower equipped with a multiple displacement system. The multiple displacement system improves fuel efficiency at highway speeds by shutting down fuel delivery to up to four cylinders.
Equipped with a two-mode hybrid transmission, the trucks are expected to go 40 miles on electricity alone, and when an extra kick is needed, the electric and gasoline engines run together to deliver approximately 500 horsepower.
The battery pack is located under the second-row seat of the pickup and is liquid-cooled to help maintain a consistent battery temperature. Chrysler will track urban and rural use to measure battery performance and overall hybrid efficiency with the demonstration fleet of pickups.
“Cities have been carefully selected to help the Chrysler Group collect a wide range of data,” explained Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of the Chrysler Group’s advanced hybrid vehicle project. “Temperature extremes found in the cold of North Dakota or the heat of Arizona can have a severe impact on battery life and charging efficiency.”
Demonstration testing partnerships like this will contribute to the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) newly announced efforts to transition all federal fleet vehicles to advanced fuel technologies. These efforts are part of President Obama’s memorandum to transition all newly purchased light duty federal fleet vehicles to alternative fuels by 2015.
The GAO is currently contracting passenger vehicles, but will begin future plans to look at advanced technology trucks.