Ask Nathan: RAM EV Pickup Truck, Four Speed Autos, and Flood Damaged Cars?

In this week’s Ask Nathan:

  • Are we getting a RAM EV pickup truck?
  • Why kill off the four-speed automatic?
  • Should I buy a flood damaged car?
Ram EV Sketch by: Paul Piliste for

The first question comes from a fan who wants to know if we’ll ever get a RAM EV pickup truck.

Q:  (Via: Twitter@NathanAdlen) Ford and GM are building an electric truck. When will we get to see a RAM EV pickup?

I doubt we’ll get a Nissan or Toyota EV truck, but I think that FCA will try to compete with the main players in our market. Don’t you? .

— 9 Fingers

Michael Stanfel for for

A: Great news!

Yes, according to the folks at FCA, we will be getting some sort of Ram EV pickup truck. In late October, FCA announced that they are during the company’s third-quarter earnings call. Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley confirmed that they will announce an electric Ram pickup shortly (via Detroit Free Press):

“I do see that there will be an electrified Ram pickup in the marketplace, and I would ask you just to stay tuned for a little while, and we’ll tell you exactly when that will be.”

There has yet to be follow-up; however, there are a ton of new developments about FCA’s PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) tech and how that could also find its way into future Ram pickup trucks. Recently, FCA/Jeep released information about their upcoming Jeep Wrangler 4xe PHEV.

The 4xe comes with a 17.3-kWh, 96-cell nickel manganese cobalt battery pack under the rear seat. There is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 134 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque by itself. Combining the electric motors with the gas engine, the 4xe produces 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. That is full-size pickup truck territory. Currently, Jeep says the system gets 50 MPGe and it can run 25-miles on electricity alone.

You can read more about the Jeep Wrangler 4xe here.

Why mention Jeep?

While we have no data on FCA’s full electric plans, we do know that they have successfully integrated several PHEV systems into existing platforms in minivans, crossovers and now, a truck-like platform. If they can successfully pull this off, there is no reason to assume they wouldn’t share this tech with other suitable vehicles.

Considering the positive buzz Ford is beginning to get with their new F-150 hybrid, I bet we hear a LOT more about Ram EV and PHEV trucks shortly after the new year.

One final note on the upcoming Ram EV pickup truck: it is possible that the Ram EV could be based on a completely different platform. Like some of these concept images, it may look interesting. EV trucks have no need for an engine compartment, and battery cells will be mounted low, perhaps in a current Ram platform, or something completely unique.

Stay tuned!

— N

The next question comes from a fan who is irritated by modern CVTs and multi-gear (7-9 speed) automatic transmissions.

Q: Roman, Nathan, Andres and Tommy: why do automakers constantly insist on making things so complicated? Like transmissions!

I have a 2015 Toyota Yaris SE with a 4 speed automatic transmission. Actually, I purchased it based on Nathan’s recommendation back in 2014. In 6 years, I have driven it as a commuter almost daily. If it weren’t for COVID 19, I would be at 175,000. Right now, I’m at 166,000 and have had absolutely zero problems.

The only thing I have replaced were the tires twice. It is the most reliable, sensible commuter I’ve ever drivern bar none. Toyota was stupid to stop selling them here considering how solid this little car is. I know it’s slow and not very sophisticated, I don’t care. This little car is exceptional for commuting and long distance drives. I’ve driven back and fourth from San Diego to Chicago 6 times round trip and it was very efficient. I was getting real close to 40 mpg in the Midwest.

Here is my issue/problem with what’s happening now. Instead of sticking with something that works well and is bullet proof, everyone is shoving terrible CVTs and complex automatic transmissions in everything. Why is this happening? I don’t understand why something that is efficient with 4 gears needs to be pumped up to 8 or 9 gears! Dual clutch transmissions seem kind of unpollished too. I’m not seeing to many cars beating my Yaris’ MPG by much.

I know that Nathan would yell and tell me to get a manual for even better performance, and he may be right. My right leg is messed up just like Nathans and I have a hard time using the clutch otherwise I would definitely own one. I just don’t understand why bothering to make something that is so complex that it becomes less reliable with little gain!

— Elton DJ

A: Thanks for the email!

That’s a great question, one that has several answers.

You are absolutely correct, the Yaris is as solid as a rock and the four-speed transmission is extremely reliable. Toyota was one of the last automakers to ditch the four-speed auto just a few years back. Why? It makes financial sense to adopt the same (or similar) transmission as other vehicles in your fleet. At one point, just about everything Toyota built with front-wheel drive (FWD) had a similar four-speed automatic transmission. Now, those that remain either have a CVT or an eight speed.

By adopting an eight speed, or a CVT, overall gas mileage improves. On top of that, just about every review outlet lambasted Toyota for using such an antiquated transmission. To get a maximum return on investment, having more vehicles use less transmission variations makes sense. On top of that, Toyota was already looking to kill off the old Yaris in our market, the current one is basically a Mazda 2 that comes with Mazda’s six-speed automatic and manual. By the way, it’s a pretty good car too.

More gears, or a CVT, can (in many cases) improve performance, fuel mileage and it can help make a car smoother to drive in traffic. I agree, killing off something so reliable is hard to accept, but there are cooperate reasons that make sense – when you look at the big picture.

– N

The last question comes from a young viewer who is thinking about buying a flood-damaged car as his first ride.

Q: (Via: Twitter@NathanAdlen) Hi Nathan! I’m about to turn 16 and I am on the lookout for my first car.

I have very little money. I live in El Paso, Texas and I saved almost $2,000. Found a cool Saturn 1990 low miles that runs good but it is flood damaged. Is that something I should stay away from even if it runs great?

Perry R

Some sections of the trip were severely flooded. The Focus managed through some deep water impressively.

A: Thanks for the message!

Be very careful of flood-damaged vehicles. Water damage can do a lot of harm to a vehicle that may not be immediately apparent. Many insurance companies will consider a car totaled and junk them if they are sufficiently damaged by flood water. In most cases, a flood-damaged vehicle will be listed as a salvage. You may find that insurance companies may refuse to cover a salvage vehicle.

Here are just a few potential problems with flood-damaged vehicles:

  • Corroded wiring and electronics – Long exposure to water could destroy wiring. This could damage minor components over the short run, and important components over the log haul. That includes safety systems.
  • Water saturated engine components – Engines and some other important components are not totally water sealed. Sure, rain usually doesn’t do much, but water that floods into and around components can destroy lubrication, foul plugs, corrode wires, ruin gaskets and more.
  • Unseen rust – Lots of components that are hard to see could rust prematurely. That could include, bolts, welds and structural components. Your vehicle’s overall integrity could be at risk.
  • Hidden mildew and bacteria – Nasty, bacteria-filled flood waters are no good for interiors. Sure, the seller could make them look and smell clean for a short time, but it could come back and bite you in a bad way. Not just nasty smells, but toxins that could cause you harm.

I highly recommend avoiding flood-damaged vehicles. If you absolutely must look at this vehicle, please bring a mechanic or someone who knows what to look for when you go. Also, contact your insurance company; there’s a good chance they will not cover it.

One final recommendation: Old Saturns are kind of nifty, but you can find better cars for two-grand. I quickly glanced at Craig’s List in your area and found better potential selections.

Good luck!

— N

Speaking of flooding vehicles…