A moving vehicle contains a lot of energy; kinetic energy to be exact. This energy is converted to another source of energy when the vehicle’s brakes are applied: heat. This heat is then lost to the atmosphere. Physicists would say that this is a wasteful way to manage the energy of the “system.”
Over a decade ago, that situation was changed when automakers designed regenerative braking systems. Instead of converting kinetic energy into heat, regenerative braking systems convert it into electricity and store it. This is not new. Almost all the EVs (Electric Vehicles) on the road today do it and Fiat-Chrysler engineers have designed a new type of “regen” system that does the same. The system is called: eTorque.
The eTorque system replaces the conventional alternator on the Ram trucks with a 48-volt motor/generator. The key here is the term “motor/generator.” This means it is a device that does two things. First, when it is turned by the engine, it produces electricity. Second, when it is turned by a vehicle’s kinetic energy, it makes electricity. The captured energy is then passed into a 430 watt-hour, air-cooled, lithium-ion battery pack.
According to our technical consultant at Alan Jay Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, the Ram eTorque system has four modes of operation.
Standard braking: When braking, the conventional disc brakes and regen work together. The generator is capturing braking energy, but the brakes are helping out too.
Coasting: When the driver applies just a little brake such as when traveling down a gentle hill, eTorque operates on “pure regen.” The friction of the generator capturing that braking energy is enough to slightly slow the truck.
Start-stop: The eTorque system powers a start-stop system in which the engine shuts off at traffic stops. The eTorque quickly restarts it when the gas pedal is pushed. This setup saves gas by lessening the time spent idling.
Acceleration assist: This is the cool part. The eTorque system gives some assistance with acceleration below 2,000 rpm and is good for an additional 90 foot-pounds of torque on the V6 and 130 on the V8. This is literally giving additional power to the engine, power that would have been lost to heat with traditional braking systems.
Available on the Ram 1500 Big Horn Quad Cab
Ram 1500s with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 will come with eTorque standard, and it’ll be available as a $1,450 option on the 5.7L Hemi V8. And what do you get? Adding eTorque to the Hemi boosts the truck’s towing capacity from 11,610 to 12,750 lbs. The regen tech also boosts fuel efficiency on the Hemi from 17 mph combined city/highway to 19 mph on two- and four-wheel-drive models.
The big boys
What remains to be seen is whether eTorque will make it to Ram’s 3/4-ton and full-ton pickups or vans, or to other Fiat-Chrysler trucks. FCA’s public relations department won’t say at this point. But, electrification makes even more sense on big working trucks because electric motors excel at providing torque from idle and this is ideal for hauling heavy loads.