The new plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler 4xe debuted this week as “the most capable Wrangler ever.” However, when it comes to ensuring owners have enough all-electric range to tackle some of America’s best off-roading playgrounds, Jeep isn’t taking any chances.
According to Roadshow, the company plans to back up its 2021 hybrid off-roader with charging infrastructure in the last place you’d expect — literally the middle of nowhere:
Jim Morrison, head of Jeep in North America, dropped a pretty cool bit of news in an interview Thursday. To coincide with the launch of the plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe, the company will install solar charging stations on select trails in California and Utah. Morrison confirmed that owners will be able to charge up at Rubicon Springs, the halfway point of the 22-mile Rubicon Trail, as well as on select trails in Moab, Utah.
First of all, let’s call these off-road charging stations what they are: Jeep billboards. Clever, but Jeep has managed to find an excuse to market its (temporary) advantage of selling an over-capable off-roader with hybrid power, right smack where everybody in their not-hybrid-Jeep-Wranglers look on. Of course, eventually other hybrid vehicles that can make it to the charging stations (which will be conveniently located around campsites) will likely be able to use them also.
In regard to the Rubicon Trail, Jeep has already confirmed that the hybrid Wrangler 4xe has completed the 22-mile journey in all-electric mode without having to stop for a charge or switch to liquid power. The 4xe has a claimed estimated electric-only range of about 25 miles, so no dilly-dallying.
The 400-volt, 17 kWh, 96-cell battery pack located under the rear passenger seat area is capable of achieving a full charge from the off-road solar stations in about two hours, Jeep claims. Two electric motors sip the big battery’s energy; the first is an electric-assist system on the engine itself, and the second is an in-line electric motor coupled to the 8-speed transmission with two clutches that transition between electric- and combustion-powered propulsion.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine combined with the hybrid powertrain puts down 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, and the battery is sealed to a vehicle water fording depth of 30 inches. For off-road duties, the Jeep is equipped with fully articulating suspension and solid front and rear axles as well as a full-time 4x4 two-speed transfer case.
Jeep’s thinking with the “most capable Wrangler ever” line is not that people are just craving the claimed 50-mpge mileage they’ll get on-road, but rather that they’ll be enthralled to discover what 470 lb-ft of near-instant torque can do across the scars of Utah.