At CES in Las Vegas last year, Ram unwrapped its REVolution concept electric pickup truck. It was quite a departure from the traditional Ram pickup. It was lower and featured a cargo box that blended into the passenger compartment. It got people thinking that maybe change was in the air for pickup trucks of the future. Now Ram has introduced its actual version of an electric pickup truck — the Ram 1500 REV. It has some of the styling cues of the concept but avoids any ground breaking changes. Eliminate the LED displays front and rear and it looks for all the world like a slightly refreshed version of the current Ram 1500.
Cybertruck Vs Truck World
Four years ago, Elon Musk and Tesla threw a bomb into the middle of the pickup truck world. The Cybertruck was like nothing else on Earth — a deliberate attempt to shake up a segment of the market where every model looks pretty much like every other model. It is a segment that has been owned by the Big Three American automakers since the dawn of time. Although Nissan, Toyota, and Honda tried to join the club, none of them have succeeded to any appreciable extent.
The Big Three remind me of the old joke about how do porcupines make love? The answer is very, very carefully. They are all terrified of what happened to Jeep many years ago when the company switched from round to square headlights. Loyal Jeep aficionados were incensed and sales fell off a cliff. Jeeps, pickup trucks, and Harley Davidson motorcycles are image vehicles. Their audience expects them to look a certain way and woe betide anyone who messes with those expectations.
People can natter on all they want about towing and cargo capacity but if a truck doesn’t look like what truck buyers expect, it won’t sell in the numbers required. The manufacturers need these trucks to sell well, since they are just about their most profitable vehicles. That’s the reason the UAW targeted the factories that make them during their national strike this fall.
That’s also what makes the Cybertruck such an enormous gamble. It breaks all the rules, rips up all the normal conventions, and shreds the conventional wisdom about what a pickup truck should look like.
Meet The Ram 1500 REV
Now Ram has announced the 1500 REV, its first production electric pickup truck, which will be in showrooms late in 2024. The first thing people will notice is that it looks pretty much like its combustion engine siblings, although some of the LED design language from the concept truck got included. Stellantis Chief Design Officer Ralph Gilles sat down with the people at Autoblog recently to talk about the differences between the production truck and the concept.
It’s not like we went a different direction with it. That was always a direction, to do this. The concept truck is exactly that. It’s a concept to show where we’re ultimately headed, right? It’s kind of a manifesto that’s gonna inspire us, get our owners excited about what they want, because if you looked at that truck, it had every conceivable innovation we could come up with in one place.
So we want to listen to what resonates, you know, we’re looking at the chatter on the internet. We’ve actually sent (the concept) to clinic. We’re sending it all over the U.S. to do shows and we’re actually engaging customers with it to get their feedback and the response. So there are a lot of ideas, and we’re going to make the best use of that as we architect the new generation.
I think part of what we’re realizing, at least my take on it, is we don’t need to be outwardly EV. And I don’t believe there’s a thing as an EV aesthetic. Like, all cars should be handsome. This should be good looking. It’s not trying to be outwardly, ‘I’m EV,’ you know, it’s not about this, it’s just that handsome good looking truck that happens to have EV propulsion.
Ram 1500 REV — Theory Vs Reality
Parsing the words of Ralph Gilles, it seems clear Ram is trying not to suffer a “Jeep square headlights” moment. It created the Revolution Concept to test the waters and the feedback it got was truck buyers want a truck that looks like what they expect a truck to look like. Other companies have made unconventional cars that looked unconventional. The EV1 from GM was boldly different. The second generation Prius went out of its way to look different from normal cars. After several versions that got weirder and weirder, it reverted to a clean new styling language that just looks good without any hint of weirdness.
Reading between the lines, Autoblog says it looks like the REV Concept was not meant to be the direct inspiration for the production Ram 1500 REV. Instead, it was a way for the company to test the waters to see just how much newness truck owners wanted in a battery powered pickup truck. The answer appears to be “some but not too much.” New LED headlights and tail lights are OK but don’t mess around with the basics — a big hood in front, a four door passenger cab, and a modest size cargo box in back.
Ram CEO Mike Koval told Autoblog the goal is to bring elements of the REV Concept to a production truck one day. Gilles says the typical timeline for its truck design is 10 to 12 years. Since the current truck has only been in production for four years, the design concepts shown in the Revolution concept probably won’t show up in a production vehicle until 2030 or so.
For the record, the Ram 1500 REV is built on an all new ladder frame purposely designed for large body on frame electric vehicles. The cab and cargo box are slightly modified versions of those used to build the conventional truck but the front end is significantly different as it contains a large cargo compartment known popularly as a frunk.
Customers have a choice of two battery packs. A 168 kWh pack good for 350 miles of range and a 229 kWh pack good for 500 miles. According to MotorTrend, the STLA platform will operate at 400 volts with the battery split in two, allowing the halves to be wired in series for 350 kW charging at 800 volts. All wheel drive comes from dual motors that each make 335 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Combined peak output is 654 hp and 610 lb-ft with the big battery, 628 hp with the standard battery. Maximum cargo capacity is 2,700 lbs and maximum towing capacity is 14,000 lbs.
Ram has done its homework and decided truck owners don’t want major changes to the look of their vehicles, even if they are electric. Ford and GM seem to agree, as their own electric pickup trucks faithfully adhere to the design language that has come to define the American full size pickup truck — big, brawny, and bold.
Tesla, of course, is the outlier, having designed a pickup truck that deliberately breaks all the rules. If the market research by the Big Three is correct, the Cybertruck should be a dismal failure. All three companies have had time to adapt their pickup truck designs to meet the challenge of the Cybertruck and all three have decided to stick with fairly traditional designs. But are they all victims of group think?
It seems unlikely the market for pickup trucks will increase enough to make room for the Cybertruck and the more traditional models from Ram, Ford, and GM. That means someone has guessed wrong about the market. Somebody in the pickup truck space is going to be the biggest loser in the next few years but who? Things are about to get interesting.
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