The Hybrid Electric Jeep Wrangler is on the Horizon

Jeep is calling it the Wrangler 4xe, and according to them, it will be the “most technically advanced and eco-friendly Wrangler ever,” but it’s not the first hybrid from Jeep. The Renegade 4xe and Compass 4xe models, which were introduced in Geneva last year, already arrived in Europe this summer. Fiat Chrysler Auto says that we can expect to see the new Wrangler 4xe hit China, Europe, and the United States in early 2021.

 

Jeep Wrangler 4xe at a Glance

The Jeep Wrangler 4xe is a hybrid plug-in that can deliver up to 25 miles of emissions-free driving. Critics may scoff at the (very) modest electric-only range, but for urban commuters, the overall fuel-economy offered by Wrangler 4xe seems to address the concerns of daily driving while still offering fun and capability on the trails. In the coming years, all Jeep nameplates will see the addition of a 4xe (electrified) 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.”

The Wrangler 4xe’s drivetrain is comprised of two electric motors that complement its 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 engine (w/TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission). This combination of traditional IC and electric power will deliver as much as 50 mpg (equivalent) fuel economy, while also offering a fully electric mode for shorter trips.

 

A Closer Look at Wrangler 4xe’s Power

The twin electric motors in the hybrid Wrangler are powered by a 400-volt, 17-kWh, 96-cell lithium-ion, nickel manganese cobalt battery bank which, in combination with the turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine, can deliver an impressive 375 horsepower (280 kW) and 470 lb.-ft. (637 N•m) of torque. “The high-tech, direct-injection engine uses a twin-scroll, low-inertia turbocharger mounted directly to the cylinder head, along with a dedicated cooling circuit for the turbocharger, intake air and throttle body for exceptional responsiveness, performance and fuel efficiency.”

 

For those of you interested in the specifics of how Jeep makes the electric and IC power plants play nicely, here’s how it works:

“A high-voltage, liquid-cooled motor generator unit mounts at the front of the engine, replacing the conventional alternator. A robust belt connects the motor generator to the engine crankshaft pulley. The motor generator spins the engine for nearly seamless, fuel-saving, start-stop operation and generates electricity for the battery pack. The Wrangler 4xe does not use a conventional 12-volt starter motor. The Wrangler 4xe is equipped with a 12-volt battery to run accessories.

The second high-voltage motor generator is mounted at the front of the transmission case, replacing the conventional torque converter of an automatic transmission.

Two clutches work to manage power and torque from the e-motor and engine. A binary clutch (on/off) is mounted between the engine and the motor. When this clutch is open there is no mechanical linkage between the engine and the e-motor, which enables it to propel the Wrangler 4xe in electric-only mode.

When the binary clutch is closed, torque from the 2.0-liter engine and the e-motor flow combine through the automatic transmission. A variable clutch mounted behind the e-motor manages engagement with the transmission to improve drivability and efficiency.”

Wrangler 4xe’s lithium batteries reside in a temperature-controlled, fully-sealed aluminum housing underneath the rear passenger seats, where they’re protected from the outside elements. Despite these high-voltage components, the 4xe maintains the 30-inch deep-water-fording ability that Trail Rated Jeeps are known for.

 

Driving Modes

Naturally, a vehicle with both electric and IC motors can benefit from driver-selectable operating modes, and the Wrangler 4xe offers three so that users can tailor vehicle economy to the demands of their particular journey.

 

Hybrid – The default mode blends torque from the 2.0-liter engine and electric motor. In this mode, the powertrain will use battery power first, then add in propulsion from the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 when the battery reaches minimum state of charge.

Electric – The powertrain operates on zero-emission electric power only until the battery reaches the minimum charge or the driver requests more torque (such as wide-open throttle), which engages the 2.0-liter engine.

eSave – Prioritizes propulsion from the 2.0-liter engine, saving the battery charge for later use, such as EV off-roading or urban areas where internal combustion propulsion is restricted. The driver can also choose between Battery Save and Battery Charge during eSave via the Hybrid Electric Pages in the Uconnect monitor.

With all driving modes, regenerative braking technology contributes significantly to the vehicle’s fuel economy rating. When in 4×4 mode, all four wheels deliver regenerative braking, feeding power back into the battery bank. The addition of a selectable “Max Regen” braking mode allows additional regenerative braking capacity, slowing the vehicle significantly through resistance of the electric motors while capturing even more energy for the lithium battery bank.

 

Rest Assured, it Can Still Go Off-highway 

Prospective owners take note that all three driving modes are still usable when the 4xe is put in 4-low for off-highway performance. And when it comes to performance, the immediately available torque delivered by the electric motors augments turbo spool-up and the IC engine, delivering “a more precise and controlled driving experience for climbing and crawling—there’s no need to build up engine rpm to get the tires to move, minimizing driveline shock loading and maximizing control and speed.”

 

“The new Jeep Wrangler 4xe is available in three models: 4xe, Sahara 4xe, and Rubicon 4xe. Wrangler 4xe and Wrangler Sahara 4xe models are equipped with full-time 4×4 systems, front and rear next-generation Dana 44 axles, and are fitted with the Selec-Trac two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio. The intuitive system allows the driver to set it and forget it in any environment.

An available Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential provides extra grip and capability in low-traction situations, such as driving over sand, gravel, snow or ice.

Wrangler Rubicon 4xe models carry the Rock-Trac 4×4 system that includes a two-speed transfer case with a 4:1 low-range gear ratio, full-time 4×4, front and rear next-generation Dana 44 axles, Tru-Lok electric front- and rear-axle lockers. The Wrangler Rubicon 4xe has an impressive crawl ratio of 77.2:1, which makes scaling any obstacle easy. Wrangler Rubicon models also offer improved articulation and total suspension travel with help from a front axle, electronic sway-bar disconnect. Together, these components contribute to the maximum off-road prowess Wrangler Rubicon is known for.

The Wrangler 4xe includes Selec-Speed Control with Hill-ascent and Hill-descent Control. This allows drivers to control vehicle speed up and down steep, rugged grades with the transmission shift lever.”

 


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Matthew Swartz is originally from Connecticut and currently lives in Denver, Colorado where he passionately pursues rock climbing, trail running, and skiing. Matt’s love of travel has inspired him to through-hike the JMT and part of the PCT, bike across the United States, and explore the West coast of South America from Ecuador to Patagonia. Matt and his partner Amanda have also travelled across much of the Western US in their 1964 Clark Cortez RV, which they lived in, on the road for the better part of three years. Matt has worked for the USFS as an Interpretive Ranger and Wildland Firefighter and Matt's photography and writing has been published in Rova Magazine, the Leatherman blog, 'Hit The Road' by Gestalten Publishing, and Forbes.