In a sign that petrol-electric 4x4s are headed our way, the global Jeep Wrangler 4xe was unveiled over night in the USA… and it could be coming to Oz! Would you drive one?
Revealed last night and expected to go on sale early next year in the USA, Europe and China, the new Jeep Wrangler 4xe is claimed to be the most capable, technically advanced and eco-friendly Wrangler ever. Get ready, because Jeep says this is a global model, so it could be headed for Aussie showrooms, but maybe not as early as next year
What is it?
The Wrangler 4xe features a plug-in hybrid powertrain that’s claimed to provide up to 40km of zero-emission electric-only propulsion, but thanks to the inclusion of a 2.0L four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, Jeep describes the 4xe as “an all-electric daily driver without range anxiety”.
The Wrangler 4xe powertrain is claimed to produce 280kW of power and 637Nm of torque. It consists a 2.0L turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, an engine-mounted motor generator unit, a transmission-mounted motor generator unit (integrated in the 8-speed ZF tranny) and a 400-volt, 17-kWh, 96-cell lithium-ion, nickel manganese cobalt battery pack.
How does it work?
Here’s how it works: A high-voltage, liquid-cooled motor generator unit mounts at the front of the engine (in place of the alternator) and a belt connects the motor generator to the engine crankshaft pulley. This engine-mounted motor generator spins the engine for nearly seamless, fuel-saving start-stop operation, and generates electricity for the battery pack. The second (transmission-mounted) high-voltage motor generator replaces the auto’s torque converter.
There’s an on/off clutch mounted between the petrol engine and the e-motor; when it’s open there is no mechanical linkage between the engine and the e-motor, so the Wrangler 4xe runs in electric-only mode, but when the clutch is closed, torque from the petrol engine and the e-motor both run through the automatic transmission.
The aforementioned battery pack and its controls are mounted beneath the Wrangler 4xe’s second-row seat. The battery pack is fitted with a dedicated heating and cooling circuit to keep it running at the optimum temperature. Jeep emphasises that all high-voltage electronics, including the wiring between the battery pack and the electric motors, are sealed and waterproof, hence the Wrangler 4xe’s ‘Trail Rated’ 760mm water fording capability.
There’s an electric charge port on the left front cowl of the Wrangler 4xe for nose-in parking at charging locations. LED indicators show charging status and there’s an LED battery-level monitor on top of the instrument panel.
There are three driver-selectable modes to suit driving conditions: ‘Hybrid’ is the default mode, and this combines torque from the petrol engine and the e-motor; ‘Electric’ operates on electric power only until the battery reaches the minimum charge, or the driver requests more torque via the throttle; and ‘eSave’ mainly relies on the petrol engine, saving the battery charge for later use.
The Wrangler 4xe also uses regenerative braking to maximise battery life. When the driver steps on the brake pedal, there’s up to 0.25g of regenerative braking from the electric motors to slow the vehicle, and with 4×4 engaged, all four wheels feed torque for regenerative braking, maximising energy recovery. There’s also a ‘Max Regen’ feature that can be engaged to maximise regenerative energy production.
Despite all the electric tech in the Wrangler 4xe, Jeep says it is “first and foremost a Jeep Wrangler with Trail Rated running gear”, so like a traditional internal combustion engine-powered Wrangler it features live axles front and rear, a two-speed transfer case and 760mm of water fording ability. In addition, Jeep says that all 4xe power modes are available in low range, and that the instant availability of torque from the electric motor delivers a more precise and controlled driving experience for climbing and crawling.
The Wrangler 4xe will be offered in three variants: 4xe, Sahara 4xe and Rubicon 4xe. Wrangler 4xe and Wrangler Sahara 4xe models are equipped with Jeep’s Selec-Trac two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range ratio, while the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe has Jeep’s Rock-Trac 4×4 system with a 4:1 low-range ratio, front and rear diff locks and electronic front sway-bar disconnect.
To distinguish the new Wrangler 4xe Rubicon from from non-hybrid models, it has unique Electric Blue colouring on the front and rear Rubicon tow hooks, as well as blue on the Rubicon bonnet decals, Jeep badge and the Trail Rated badge, while there’s Electric Blue stitching on the seats and trim.
Jeep says that the Wrangler 4xe will be sold globally, with EV charge port plugs tailored to specific regions but, as we mentioned, it still hasn’t been confirmed for sale in Australia at this stage.