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Moving vehicles carry a lot of kinetic energy but most of them convert that energy to waste heat when braking. Over a decade ago, that situation was changed when automakers designed regenerative braking systems to capture that wasted energy and convert it into electricity. However, until recently, regenerative systems have been relegated to hybrids sedans like the Prius or EVs like the Nissan Leaf. Today, Fiat-Chrysler engineers have designed a new type of “regen” system and is installing it on their trucks. The system is called: eTorque.

The eTorque system replaces the conventional alternator, which is turned by engine power, with a 48-volt motor/generator. The key here is the term “motor/generator.” This means the device does both: when it is turned by the engine, it produces electricity, when it is turned by a vehicle’s kinetic energy, it makes electricity. “Regen operation is mostly the same on hybrid vehicles,” says Brian Spohn, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ vehicle electrification manager. “What makes the eTorque system unique is its application to trucks.”

Crankshaft Helper
eTorque’s point of connection is at the engine’s crankshaft. When the driver lifts off the throttle to coast or even lightly touches the brake pedal, the engine’s slowing crankshaft reverses the eTorque system and it becomes a 48V generator spun by the engine. The captured energy is then passed into a 430 watt-hour, air-cooled, lithium-ion battery pack.

Four Modes
According to our technical consultant at Naples Dodge Chrysler Ram, the Ram eTorque system has four modes of operation.

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.

Braking: When heavier braking, here’s “blended regen,” in which the conventional disc brakes and regen work together. The generator is still capturing braking energy, but the brakes are helping out too.

Start-stop: The eTorque system powers a conventional start-stop system in which the engine shuts off at traffic stops, and eTorque quickly restarts it when the gas pedal is pushed. This setup saves gas by lessening the time spent idling.

Acceleration assist: 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 helpful for any internal combustion engine as it can be used to flatten out gaps in engines’ torque bands at low speeds.

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.