Fiat Chrysler has been slow to join the push to battery propulsion but it is now racing to catch up with plans to have “more than” 30 hybrids, plug-ins and all-electric models in its line-up during the next few years.
Leading the charge is the Jeep brand which already offers hybrid versions of the Renegade and Compass models and today revealed the launch of the similarly powered Wrangler 4xe. The new system, which makes a peak 375 horsepower, will be the quickest version of the SUV, deliver up to 25 miles of all-electric range and, yet, Jeep officials contend it will add to, rather than limit, the Wrangler’s traditional ruggedness.
“Off-road capabilities and on-road performance were our top priorities,” said Mike Wiacek, FCA’s chief engineer of electrified vehicles. Significantly, he noted, that at the low speeds off-roaders run at, the 4xe will “allow for hours of all-electric operation.”
The Wrangler 4xe pairs a 2.0-liter inline-four with a 400-volt electric drive system comprised of two motors drawing power from a 96-cell battery pack neatly tucked under the back seat to minimize the loss of usable passenger and cargo space.
All together, the system makes 375 hp and 400 pound-feet of torque, power directed through an 8-speed automatic to all four wheels. Notably, one of the two motors is mounted at the front of the transmission case, replacing a conventional torque convertor.
From a fuel economy perspective, the system delivers an estimated 50 MPGe, or miles per gallon-equivalent. From a performance perspective, the torquey nature of electric motors helps launch the Wrangler 4xe from 0 to 60 in just 6 seconds, according to Wiacek.
For those worried about off-roading with a high-voltage battery, Jeep officials noted during a media briefing that all the electronics have been carefully shielded. Among other things, the 4xe model will match other Trail Rated models in being able to ford water depths of up to 30 inches.
Meanwhile, the Wrangler 4xe will be able to tow up to 3,500 pounds and features cargo capacity of 1,280 pounds.
The drive system will offer three operating modes, conventional hybrid, all-electric and “eSave,” where battery power is intentionally saved for later use.
In all modes, energy normally lost during braking is regenerated and sent back to the battery. Motorists can use a Max Regen function to increase this function – and it also allows for one-foot driving by acting as if the engine had been downshifted.
Among its features, the 4xe will offer Select Speed Control, an off-road equivalent to cruise control, allowing the driver to set speeds of anywhere from 1 to 5 miles per hour.
Three versions of the electrified Wrangler will be offered, a base 4xe, a Sahara 4xe and a Rubicon 4xe.
The arrival of the Wrangler 4xe coincides with the debut of the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer Concept – a production version set to launch next summer. The show car features a plug-in hybrid drivetrain which is expected to be one of several engine options on the retail version.
“Our Jeep 4xe vehicles will be the most efficient, responsible and capable that the brand has ever created,” said Christian Meunier, Global President of Jeep Brand – FCA. “We are committed to make Jeep the greenest SUV brand. The electrification of the Jeep lineup will allow commuters to travel solely on electric power, delivering an efficient and fun on-road experience and offering an ability to enjoy even more Jeep capability off-road in nearly complete silence.”