Solar Charging May Be The Key To Electric Off-Roading

Illustration for article titled Solar Charging May Be The Key To Electric Off-Roading
Image: Jeep, modified by Jason Torchinsky

Following the launch of its 4Xe lineup of plug-in hybrid vehicles last year, Jeep made a promise that it would install stand-alone charging stations at trails across the United States. It would seem that Jeep is serious about the future of electrification for the brand, which makes sense as torque available from zero rpm is a great idea for rock crawling. And with Hummer returning as a full electric BEV, surely there can’t be an electric Wrangler too far behind. I hope that every Jeep hybrid and EV owner of the future takes them to the Rubicon or Moab. In fact, a Wrangler BEV concept will be shown at Easter Jeep this year.

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Jeep recently launched its plan for “The Road Ahead”, which helps to flesh out the Jeep electrification plan. In that plan it shows off the honestly pretty cool visual concept for Jeep’s solar chargers. According to this little blurb on the site, Jeep “plans to install solar powered charging stations in support of the Jeep® Badge of Honor® trails across the U.S.” including Moab and Rubicon, to name two.

Illustration for article titled Solar Charging May Be The Key To Electric Off-Roading
Screenshot: Jeep

The system looks quite similar to the one Electrify America is using in rural locations to shore up its infrastructure. I’m not sure if the Jeep-branded model is built on the same Envision Solar architecture, but it certainly looks like it could be. While the EA/Envision chargers are totally mobile and can set up in seconds completely off the grid, the Jeep joints look like they’ll be permanently (or at least semi-permanently) installed into existing parking lots.

A solar charger isn’t going to put up the 800 volt 200 kW charging numbers that Electrify America can shove into a Taycan, but probably something like a 6 kW level 2 charger at the base of a trail would be sufficient to get you a top up of a few miles in order to get up and back. The ability to add 25 miles of charge in an hour, give or take, will probably give you the ability to do the full trail in electric mode to really take in the sounds and peacefulness of nature. The Rubicon trail, for example, is 22 miles in length.

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Unlike Tesla, these Jeep-branded chargers will likely be open to any car with a J1772 plug, so you Hummer, Rivian, and F-150 EV owners will be able to plug right in. Cybertruck probably won’t fit down the trail anyway, but if you want to plug in, it’ll take an adapter to make it happen.

The one remaining problem with electric vehicles is the charging infrastructure. It’s as simple as that. If Jeep is interested in extending that infrastructure to off-the-grid places like the base of a crawling trail, more power to them. Literally.

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

DISCUSSION

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RustyBolts

“A solar charger isn’t going to put up the 800 volt 200 kW charging numbers that Electrify America can shove into a Taycan”

Why not? Battery storage is how Tesla Superchargers are able to get 10 cars charged at the same time (using electricity off the grid), otherwise it would overload the system. A simple 6kw solar system and battery could easily DCFC a Jeep. In that landscape, it might take a day to completely refill from empty (it should easily get 40-50kwh in a day’s sun). Not sure how big the Jeep batteries would be - lets just say 80kw- but this should work.

A 6kw system is small, and relatively cheap. I would expect a 10-12kw PV system and a larger battery would make it possible to DCFC a couple Jeeps in the same day.