Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Pickups Gearing Up for Huge Fuel Economy Improvements

By Eric Junga

Automakers are rolling out an impressive suite of fuel-saving technologies just as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seek to roll back vehicle efficiency and emissions standards. Many of these technologies will be applied to full-size pickups, the perennial poster child for going easy on domestic manufacturers when it comes to setting future fuel economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emission (GHG) standards. Let’s take a look at how the Detroit Three’s pickups might fare in relation to the standards already on the books, starting with an unexpected rising star.

RAM’s big fuel economy play

RAM’s parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (FCA), is a persistent fuel economy laggard. According to DOT fuel economy projections, FCA’s model year 2018 overall average fuel economy is projected to fall short of its standard by a full 3.4 miles per gallon (MPG). But by embracing cutting-edge technologies, the automaker’s RAM pickup line looks poised to become an efficiency trailblazer.

RAM is the first domestic automaker to offer a 48-volt mild hybrid system, making it a standard feature on the entry-level V6 engine and an option on its V8. Mild hybrids use a relatively small battery and belt-driven motor-generator, making the system simpler and cheaper than a traditional hybrid. Mild hybrids boost fuel economy (more than two MPG on the V8) while providing additional torque, a characteristic most pickup buyers are bound to appreciate. Because mild hybrids avoid the cost and complexity of a traditional hybrid, these systems could become standard equipment in many more vehicles down the road. The 2019 RAM includes other notable technology such as active aerodynamics that further improve fuel economy. Aerodynamics alone will contribute to a fuel economy improvement of one MPG.

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Eric Junga is Senior Research Analyst, Industry and Transportation, for ACEEE (The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy). ACEEE acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, visit





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