A recent Stellantis earnings presentation revealed that Jeep will release its first all-electric vehicle in 2023, and it also revealed various other rough release dates for Stellantis EVs and PHEVs. Sadly, though, the information is still very non-specific.
Stellantis Gives Us Some More Scraps of Information
The Detroit Press points out that the company had a lackluster response to its recent EV Day, with investors hitting the snooze button due to lack of specific plans by the automaker. This probably led to the company giving the public (especially investors) at least a little bit more information in its recent earnings presentation, which at least told us what year the company intends to offer electrified vehicles for each brand.
Here’s a screenshot of the relevant page in the presentation:
This chart shows us that Europe-only brands like Peugeot, Opel/Vauxhall, and Citroen will get new full electric models first, in the second half of 2021. (Note that these brands already sell some fully electric models in Europe.) In 2022, this electric expansion continues, but the U.S. will get just one BEV from Maserati and a plugin hybrid from Dodge. Jeep finally gets a full electric model in 2023.
Better late than never, right?
There are some notable blank lines on the chart, though. Ram (Dodge Trucks), Abarth, and Chrysler aren’t getting any plugin cars until after 2023. This means that Ram Trucks will have no answer to the F-150 Lightning or the Tesla Cybertruck. This could prove to be a big mistake for Stellantis, as loyal truck buyers may choose to switch.
My Take: Jeep Needs A Real Jeep To Be Its First EV
While we still don’t have any idea what vehicle Jeep intends to make its first full electric model, I do think it’s important that they make this first EV their best. That means an electric Wrangler. It’s the brand’s most capable off-road vehicle, and that’s what Jeep is known for. If they do this, it can serve as a flagship to prove that going electric is a good thing.
My own experiences with the Wrangler 4xe shows just how great this can be. Sure, it wasn’t a full EV, but when I did have the vehicle in electric mode, it was an amazing performer that gave us a glimpse into the future of electric off-roading.
It could go places no other plugin vehicle can go today, and even with just 180 lb-ft of torque, the electric drive gave some important advantages over gas. You get a lot more control climbing obstacles because the electric motor doesn’t stall, giving you complete control down to zero RPM. This was especially pronounced in 4-Low. Regenerative braking helps with hill descents, and the lowered center of gravity that comes with having a battery pack gives better high-speed stability.
On top of all that, an electric Wrangler still gives you solid axles, a real transfer case, and other proven technologies for maximum off-road capability. As of this writing, no other upcoming electric truck has taken that approach, instead going with transverse drive units.
Jeep is already testing a full electric Jeep, so this isn’t far fetched at all. The all-electric Magneto test vehicle has been through Moab testing, even by media and Jeep owners. It even had a six-speed manual transmission.
We’ve reached out to Jeep to see if CleanTechnica can get some wheel time with the Magneto. Hopefully we can take it out on some trails and see it for ourselves!
On The Other Hand, “Now I Got Dirt in My Rims!”
While it certainly couldn’t serve as a flagship to bring the brand unscathed into the electric age, a lesser Jeep would have some advantages over an electric Wrangler.
A smaller, lighter, and more road-oriented vehicle, like the Renegade or Compass, certainly isn’t a real Jeep. Those vehicles were basically built like a typical Fiat, and wouldn’t last very long at all against the rigors of serious off-roading. If built with a skateboard battery and drive unit configuration, the first jagged rock under the vehicle would gut the battery pack like a fish. All the ups and downs would lead to binding and then the destruction of the CV joints taking power from the drive unit to the wheels. And the bodies of those vehicles? They’d get pretty beat up.
But at the same time, many buyers want the looks, but don’t want to actually go off road.
The reality we can’t ignore is that many people don’t take their Wranglers out on trails. The “Mall Rated” Jeep is a real phenomenon. I’ve seen too many Jeeps, even ones with lift kits and other modifications, that obviously haven’t seen so much as a dirt or gravel road. Even worse, some Jeep owners put giant wheels and tiny tires on their ride, when something as gentle as a pothole would destroy that setup, so they’re clearly using it as a street machine.
That crowd would probably be a lot happier in a Jeep that’s optimized for on-road use, and thus gets better range and has better street handling. With a skateboard layout that would suffer in extreme off-road conditions, but has much better center of gravity, you could freely put those giant rims on and not waste a bunch of money on things you don’t need for street cruising.
Or, Why Not Both?
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these approaches. One would cover the “Mall Rated” Jeep owner crowd, while the other would better serve the history and overall image of Jeep. If I had to pick only one, I’d go with a legitimate Wrangler, and then let it feed sales to the other EVs as they electrify the rest of the lineup.
But, is it too much to ask for both?
If Jeep could provide customers with an intense off-road flagship to keep the brand strong in the transition to electric, but also provide a down-market option with better street performance, they’d lower their risks quite a bit. Only make an EV flagship, and people will think that Jeep isn’t serious about EVs. Only make a road-oriented EV, and Jeep will be seen as faking it, or being disloyal to their past. Even worse, they’d tarnish the reputation of electric drive as something that’s not meant for serious off-roading.
It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth putting in that extra effort.
Featured image provided by Jeep.
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