Best Pickup Fuel Economy: By The Numbers

Updated Nov 14, 2014
Ram 1500 clay model

Ram Truck engineering’s perspective of how technology affects fuel economy in pickups 

When you are talking pickup fuel economy, the numbers boil down to engine technology, and how the physical design of the truck and drivetrain interact. 

The more efficient the engine and the easier the air flows over and around the truck contributes to how efficiently it moves down the road.

Here’s how Ram Truck engineers and designers summarize fuel economy when discussing why the 2015 Ram 1500s’ mpg numbers are higher than most pickups:  

Aerodynamics: For automotive applications, wind resistance is measured as a coefficient of drag (Cd). Most full-size pickups are around 0.40 Cd. The Ram 1500 has best-in-class aerodynamics with a Cd of 0.360. That difference in drag gives about a 2.0 percent improvement in highway fuel economy or about a 0.4 gain in mpg compared to competitors.

8-speed transmission: The Ram 1500 offers an 8-speed Torqueflite transmission in all available powertrain systems and is combined with a thermal management system that quickly heats up fluids in the truck to operating temperature for less parasitic loss. It also includes active grille shutters for improved aerodynamics. The gain: about a 10 percent improvement in highway fuel economy or about a 2.0 mpg gain compared to V8 HEMI with 6 speed.

3.0-liter EcoDiesel: Best fuel efficiency offered in a pickup, including small trucks at 28 MPG. The 240hp engine gives roughly a 28-percent improvement in highway fuel economy (6.0 mpg) better than the V8 HEMI with 8-speed or to a turbo V6 with 6 speed.

Weight reduction: Reducing weight is an important aspect for a number of reasons.  But you must consider cost and benefit. Bang for the buck research shows a 500-pound reduction in weight equates to about a 2.0 percent improvement in fuel economy or  roughly 0.5 MPG.

The chart below shows how that adds up according to current/available EPA fuel economy data on 2015 2WD 1/2-ton and mid-size pickups. (Some manufacturer’s 2015 pickup fuel economy data has yet to be finalized.)

MPG 2015 1-2_tonpickups 2wd