Chrysler confirmed its plans today to release a hybrid version of the Dodge Ram pickup in 2010. Frank Klegon, Chrysler executive vice president of product development, said the hybrid Ram was part of the company’s efforts to revive the company’s product portfolio. Chrysler’s timeline puts the company about two years behind General Motors, which will introduce the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid pickups later this year.

In a January 2008 press release, Chrysler indicated that the Dodge Ram Hybrid would use the hemi-powered hybrid system being applied to the hybrid versions of the Dodge Durango Hybrid and Chrysler Aspen Hybrid. “The renowned HEMI powerplant, in hybrid form, will continue to feature Chrysler’s Multi-displacement System, which allows the engine to seamlessly alternate between four-cylinder mode when less power is needed and V-8 mode when more power is in demand.” Those vehicles are expected to achieve fuel economy ratings of 18 in the city and 19 on the highway.

Hybrid technology has not yet been applied to high-volume full-size pickup trucks. As consumers demand greater fuel efficiency, hybrids are likely to expand into a wide range of segments and sizes, including pickups, minivans, wagons, and subcompacts—all of which currently lack a high-mpg hybrid option. Car companies have a limited window of opportunity to become the first in these new hybrid segment—as the race for fuel economy leadership and green bragging rights intensifies.

In December 2004, Daimler-Chrysler produced a limited number of Dodge Ram trucks using mild hybrid technology. Those vehicles, which offered a 10 – 15% in fuel efficiency, were only available to fleet customers. The company dubbed the vehicle a “contractor special,” because it offered traditional household three-prong outlets for construction workers to run power tools. At that time, it was thought that the mild hybrid could be a good candidate to become the first diesel-powered hybrid in production.

In 2007, Chrysler also announced that the Dodge Ram would receive a non-hybrid turbodiesel engine that will meet 50-state emissions standards, and deliver a 30 percent fuel economy improvement.