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Jeep Nibbles Around The Edges Of Electrification

Jeep is tiptoeing into the electric car era with a PHEV version of the Wrangler and a battery electric concept based on the Renegade.

The Jeep Wrangler has a problem: How to embrace the EV revolution without alienating its most dedicated customers? Wrangler buyers are looking for a few core attributes — round headlights, a grille with 7 vertical slots, removable doors, and a front windshield that at least looks like it is capable of folding forward. Jeep tried making a Wrangler with square headlights once and almost went out of business before it corrected its mistake. Making changes to an iconic brand is like making love to a porcupine. You do it very, very carefully!

Meet The Wrangler 4xe Plug-In Hybrid

Jeep has begun building the 4xe plug-in hybrid versions of its Renegade and Compass models in Europe. Now the Wrangler 4xe is coming to America. The package starts with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine rated at 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Then it adds a 17 kWh battery, an eTorque starter/generator that contributes 44 horsepower and 39 lb-ft of torque, and an electric motor rated at 134 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Add it all together, and the Wrangler 4xe driver has 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft available with a (firm) push on the go pedal.

That’s the good news. The not so good news, according to CNET Roadshow, is the EPA claims the Wrangler 4xe has a maximum range of 22 miles on electric power alone — 3 short of the 25 miles Jeep claimed originally. Everything is hunky dory so long as there is juice in the battery, but once the vehicle reverts to normal combustion engine power, the 4xe manages only 20 miles per gallon. Without all the electric accouterments, a standard Wrangler with the turbo 4 gets 22 mpg and 21 mpg with the optional V-6 engine. Efficiency is not a hallmark of the Wrangler but then again, most owners won’t care about fuel economy. The Wrangler, like any brand, makes a statement and that’s what people are paying for. Speaking of money, the Wrangler 4xe lists for $49,490, including the destination charge.

The Jeep Wrangler Magneto Hits The Trail

Jeep Magneto concept.

Jeep Magneto concept. Image courtesy of Jeep.

The Easter Jeep Safari through the Moab desert in Utah is an annual event that often introduces new concepts to the off-road faithful. This year, the headline attraction is the Jeep Magneto concept, an all electric version of the Wrangler Rubicon. Other than the non-standard Bright White exterior and Surf Blue interior paint, the Magneto looks a lot like its predecessors. That’s because it is.

The only difference is that the gasoline engine is gone and in its place is an 800 volt axial flux motor designed in house by Jeep. According to Autoblog, the motor has the same specs as the V-6 gasoline engine it replaces — 285 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. The only difference is, when the driver mashes the joy pedal, all that torque is available instantly. No waiting for the gas engine to spool up to the point where maximum torque is available.

The regular Rubicon powertrain remains, however, including the clutch, transmission, and dual-range transfer case. The electric motor can rev to a maximum of 6,000 rpm, so shifting is required and the clutch is needed to change gears. The solid front and rear axles also remain.

In order to get batteries into the existing frame and body, Jeep divided them into four separate packs — one where the gas tank used to be, one on top of the motor, one between the frame rails in front of the first, and a fourth mounted in the rear storage compartment and extending down to where the muffler used to be. Each pack is protected by an aluminum enclosure with steel skid plates wherever necessary.

The total adds up to 70 kWh, but Jeep is not quoting any range or charging time numbers at the present time. And of course, mounting all those batteries high in the chassis negates one of the normal advantages of an electric vehicle, namely a low center of gravity. There are also two 12 volt batteries to power all the normal electrical functions and the WARN electric winch. They are kept charged by an inverter that steps down power from the traction batteries.

Will the Magneto ever make it into production? That’s the question this year’s Jeep Safari in Utah is meant to answer.


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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut 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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