Jeep recently announced that it’s going to build the 4xe Charging Network (4xe is prounounced “four by E”). The overall plan is to put a Level 2 charging station at the trailheads for every Jeep Badge of Honor trail. Jeep wants to complete this within the next 12 months.
Why Does Jeep Need This?
Jeep’s current EV offerings are somewhat limited, but they won’t be that way for very long. The current Jeep Wrangler 4xe is a plugin-hybrid (PHEV) that has about 20 miles of electric range from a lithium battery pack under the rear seats. Unlike most EVs, the vehicle isn’t a unibody transverse engined setup. It has a traditional Jeep body-on-frame layout, with a longitudinal four-cylinder turbocharged engine under the hood, a transmission, a transfer case, and solid axles front and rear. The only difference is that there’s an electric motor-generator (fed by the battery pack) in the transmission.
Otherwise, the Jeep is all Jeep, so off-road capability isn’t lost.
One might wonder why they’d want charging stations for Jeeps when there’s only a PHEV version that can run more conveniently on gasoline, but that’s not Jeep’s whole future plan. Recently, they revealed the details of the Jeep Magneto concept. I covered this here, but to quickly review, the Magneto concept is all electric (BEV), but with a neat twist: it has a manual transmission that’s well-integrated into the EV powertrain. Unlike manual gas cars, though, it’s not as hard to drive.
While a manual transmission EV Jeep would probably be a limited production option at best, we do know that they are very likely to build a variety of other Jeep EVs that aren’t PHEV. Plus, PHEVs can also charge up to drive more on electricity.
While picking up a few miles of electric range is nice for a plugin hybrid, it’s going to be a vital thing for the drivers of future Jeep BEVs to be able to complete the trail or top up a bit to make sure they can get home. The trails themselves probably aren’t that long, but keep in mind that electric vehicles won’t get their EPA-rated range off-road. Climbing up challenging terrain (including some rock-crawling), dealing with slippery conditions, sand, and grit will all take a toll on a battery pack that you wouldn’t see on the highway.
“Electrification opens a new chapter in the Jeep brand story, and it brings an entirely new level of excitement and enjoyment to our enthusiastic owners,” said Christian Meunier, Jeep brand CEO — Stellantis. “Key to making Jeep brand the greenest SUV brand is assuring our owners can enjoy the benefits of electric propulsion wherever they go, including the most iconic off-road trails in the country.”
More Details On The Network
The first three trails to get the charging stations will be at Moab, the Rubicon Trail, and Big Bear. These iconic trails will get the stations to coincide with the release of the PHEV Wrangler 4xe. When possible, stations will get a grid connection, but when grid power isn’t available, there will be solar panels to charge the Jeeps up.
To both build and operate the network, Jeep is working with the experienced crew at Electrify America (a Volkswagen subsidiary). Electrify America will have a custom app for Jeep owners to get access to free charging at the trailheads. Just like the company’s other app for the rest of the EA network, Jeep owners will be able to see the status of their charge as it goes.
“It is our goal to provide electric vehicle drivers with the freedom to get to where they want to go — whether it be on a highway or off-road — and we look forward to bringing Jeep enthusiasts along on the journey,” said Giovanni Palazzo, president and chief executive officer of Electrify America. “Through the customizable electric vehicle charging offerings of our Electrify Commercial B2B brand, we were able to work with Jeep to identify where their drivers will need charging access most, and make it a reality.”
Jeep estimates that a depleted PHEV Wrangler 4xe will be able to use the 240-volt charger to fill its pack up in about two hours (giving it 21 miles of electric range). That range is the EPA rating, so taking on one of these challenging trails probably means that it will be depleted or near depleted by the time they finish the trail. People who used the eSave mode and just need a top up when they arrive will not have to sit and charge for nearly as long.
Other Jeep Badge of Honor trails (which will be getting a station) are spread across 24 states, totaling 62. The most remote trails are the Black Gap 4×4 Trail in Big Bend National Park (near the Mexican border) and Monument Ridge in Teton National Park. You can find a full list of the trails on TrailsOffroad.com. This will give rural EVs a small boost all over the United States, and that’s a small victory for everyone.
Jeep owners who complete the trails get custom badges they can stick to their vehicle, giving people some prestige and bragging rights. Personally, I hope that Jeep allows for 4xe owners to get special badges for completing the trails on electric power.
This Shows Some More Commitment By Jeep and Stellantis
While little things like putting in some rural EV Level 2 charging stations might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it does show us a cultural shift happening in the Jeep brand. Buyers are willing to at least dip their toes into electricity with the PHEV Wrangler, and at least some buyers must have expressed interest in being able to do the trails on electric power for Jeep to want to do this. It also shows that they must be thinking future BEV Jeeps will need these stations, or at least they’ll be a good safety net to inspire more confidence.
Given that there are dozens of trails on the Badge of Honor list, this isn’t exactly a cheap undertaking. Sure, when grid power is available, it’s not terribly expensive to provide some Level 2 charging, but plenty of these trails are in places where Jeeps can go but power lines don’t. The fact that they’re going to offer solar-powered charging to make sure it’s available even at these remote trailheads shows that they’re serious not just about dabbling in electrification, but jumping in and swimming in the near future.
Finally, it shows that they’re serious about offering decent off-road EVs, and that’s something we haven’t seen any other manufacturer commit to at this point, even with PHEVs. For example, we don’t see a Ford Bronco Sport PHEV, or a Chevrolet PHEV that is made for off-road use (the Blazer and Trailblazer are both BS front-drive highway vehicles). Plus, as much as I love Tesla, that’s largely the reason I wouldn’t take one on a serious trail (I couldn’t bear to break it).
Jeep is blazing a trail here for everyone else to follow.
Featured image provided by Jeep (Stellantis).