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Jeep Goes To Extremes To Promote Wrangler 4xe and Compass 4xe

Jeep is going all out to market its new plug-in hybrids — the Wrangler 4xe and Compass 4xe — as giant leaps forward for the environment. But are they really?

Jeep is pretty proud of its new low emissions models, the Wrangler 4xe and Compass 4xe. Both are plug-in hybrids with about 25 miles of battery only range, but to listen to Jeep’s marketing department tell it, they are how outdoorsy folks can singlehandedly save the planet from the scourge of global warming. Let’s face it. Both cars are way better at going off road with reduced emissions than anything else the company offers but that is damning with faint praise, as my old Irish grandmothers would say. [BTW, rumor has it 4xe is supposed to be pronounced “four by e” much the same way a piece of lumber that is 2 inches by 4 inches is called a two by four and a four wheel drive vehicle is known as a four by four.]

Jeep Wrangler 4xe

Courtesy of Jeep

These are the technical bits we reported on recently. The plug-in hybrid powertrain, at least for the cars built in Italy, consists of a turbocharged 1.3 liter gasoline engine that makes 130 horsepower in normal trim but 180 horsepower in Trailhawk trim. Torque is listed as 270 Newton-meters. An 11.4 kWh battery powers two electric motors. One is integrated into the front-wheel drive engine and 6-speed automatic transmission unit. The other is mounted at the rear and powers the rear wheels. The motors add 60 horsepower and 250 Newton-meters of torque to the drivetrain. Fuel economy is said to be in the range of 2 liters per 100 kilometer.

For North America, the 4xe twins boast a turbocharged 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine and two electric motors — a 44 hp starter/generator in the engine bay and a second 134 hp unit integrated into the eight speed automatic transmission. A 17 kWh battery is fitted. According to Motor Trend, peak horsepower is 375 and peak torque is 470 lb-ft — 28 more than with the available diesel engine. Both models are expected to have a 50 MPGe rating, making them significantly more stingy with fuel than their conventionally powered cousins.

Solar Power Chargers

Jeeps are intended to be used for off road adventures and indeed some customers do take them out into the boonies once in a while. [Perhaps it would be more accurate to say “once in a great while.”] But where do you charge your Wrangler 4xe or Compass 4xe when you are away from the pavement? Jeep has thought of that and says it will construct solar powered charging locations at the midway point of the Rubicon Trail in California and along certain trails in Moab, Utah.

The charging locations will be near places off roaders would stop anyway for lunch or to rest after the grueling challenge of driving over rocks and ravines. They will be capable of shoving a full load of electrons back into the battery pack in about 2 hours, according to CNET Road Show.

Pale Blue Dot Advertising Campaign

If you noticed this story is tinged with more than a trace of irony, that can largely be explained by the cloying self congratulations Jeep is heaping upon itself with the marketing campaign for its two latest plug-in hybrids. It is truly way over the top. OK, a plug-in Jeep is better than a non-plug-in Jeep and kudos to the company for even getting this far. Remember, Jeep buyers are a fiercely loyal lot and the company nearly went bankrupt when it dared to install square headlights in its cars in place of the traditional round headlights a few years ago as sales plummeted.

Jeep learned from that debacle and has been highly risk averse ever since. But really people. Leveraging Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot narrative to sell it, like it could singlehandedly save the planet from the scourge of carbon emissions? That is way over the top, even for a marketing campaign. Especially for a company that recently announced it will invest $4.5 billion to manufacture more and more hulking pickup trucks.

“Pale Blue Dot” will air on Tuesday, September 22, during the U.S. broadcast premiere of “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” on Fox at 8 p.m. ET/PT. For every uninterrupted viewing of the video (no clicking out of its half way through) on the Jeep® brand’s YouTube channel, Jeep will make a donation to combat climate change.

“Jeep is in a process of electrification of its lineup and we feel a big responsibility to market it properly because it is not just a technical upgrade, it is a new chapter that opens for the brand,” says Olivier Francois, chief marketing officer for FCA. “The core of the brand’s DNA is exploration, adventure and freedom, so our customers already have a deep and powerful relationship with nature and with our planet.”

Actually, if your customers really had a deep and powerful relationship with our planet, they wouldn’t drive a vehicle with an internal combustion engine at all. Is that being to harsh? The schmaltz continues. Francois goes on to give tribute to Sagan’s spouse, Ann Druyan, who gave the company permission to use her husband’s “pale blue dot” ideas for the video.

“Entrusting us with passages from her husband Carl Sagan’s iconic ‘Pale Blue Dot’ oration is an act of faith and generosity from Ann that is absolutely incredible,” he adds. “We very clearly felt an enormous duty to both protect their shared legacy, and also advocate for this universal message of caring for our planet by giving our global audience the ability to support two climate change causes that are very important to us both, by simply watching ‘Pale Blue Dot’ video across our social channels.”

The history of the “pale blue dot” photo goes like this. In 1981, Sagan was a member of the Voyager 1 imaging team. (See the movie Starman for further context about that mission.) After Voyager 1 completed its reconnaissance of the most distant parts of our solar system, Sagan prevailed upon NASA to turn its camera around for one last look at the the Earth. The resulting image shows our home planet as a tiny speck in the sky when viewed from beyond Neptune, more than 4 billion miles away. That image has been known ever since as “the pale blue dot photo.”

Watching the video is probably worth your time, as it will put some money in the coffers of a few worthy causes. But what buying a Jeep — even a plug-in hybrid Jeep — has to do with preserving our “pale blue dot” for future members of the human species is a mystery as deep and abiding as the universe itself. After all, as we pointed out recently, a plug-in hybrid is of little use if drivers never actually plug them in. Can you say “greenwashing,” boys and girls? Yeah, we knew you could.




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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.


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