Electricity and motor vehicles do, it seems, mix. Launched yesterday and to much fanfare in the USA, was Jeep’s electrified Wrangler 4xe, which just goes to show that for every kilometre of trail exploration you do, you can have the smug satisfaction of knowing that no-one of the Greener persuasion can accuse you of being complicit in murdering a porpoise, so low are its emissions!
4xe is the electrification program that Jeep has embarked upon of late to have all of its fleet energised by 2022. I had a chat to FCA CEO Kevin Flynn a couple of weeks ago and he was talking up the new Compass 4xe that had been slated for introduction in Europe, the Middle East and Africa markets, as it was a technology that would flow into other models in time.
Well, the covers came off the Wrangler and for a Luddite like myself I can say that crying in my beer over the diesel-demise has thankfully been short-lived because spending my way through my superannuation at the pub was going to be clearly unsustainable, but the Wrangler 4xe’s modus-operandi clearly is sustainable and a right choice for the modern world’s tech-heads.
In a 4X4 torque is King. The more the merrier. That’s why almost everyone I know was salivating at the prospects of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel seen in Grand Cherokee would make its way into the under-gubbins of Wrangler and Gladiator, but no prize on that one and now I know why Kevin was playing coy when pressed on the matter. The sneaky bugger knew that the 4xe project was coming and would satisfy my torque-lust.
So how much are we talking about? How does 637Nm suit you along with 280kWs? Suits me right down to the ground thanks and literally because those big 33” wheels are going to turn and with no delay with the added benefit of electricity.
The existing 2.0-litre turbo-four-cylinder petrol (201kW/400Nm) that’s under the bonnet and has been doing service in USA Jeeps since the JL was released in 2018 is a mild-hybrid, employing their eTorque system, a belt-starter-generator-motor in the place where the alternator would normally sit. Its job is to give the bottom end response of the motor some hurry-up via a belt to the crankshaft pulley, so whilst you’re waiting for the turbo to get up to speed, the electric response kicks in and before you can say hold-my-beer, Wrangler is fairly sprinting!
That generator is hooked up to a 48-volt battery pack. When the petrol motor is running the eTorque generator delivers the required 48 volts to a 430-watt-hour battery with some rare metals in it. You’d expect lithium-ion, but there are nickel, manganese and cobalt encased in graphite. Star Wars stuff it is!
That battery pack also sports a 3kW DC-to-DC converter and changing the 48V to 12V so the vehicle’s other electrical systems and accessories can function and charge the starting battery.
Now that battery pack is air-cooled by a pair of fans and encased in a box to dampen the sound of the fans and tucked up in the back cabin unobtrusively. Further battery regeneration is supplied via deceleration and braking.
That part of the system is now pretty tried and tested, so with the 4xe another electric motor has been dropped in-between the engine block and the transmission and with it comes a need for more spark, jumping to 400 volts with 17kWh housed in a 96 cell battery pack under the rear seat that is kept at the optimum temperature by either a heating/cooling circuit hooked up to the car’s AC.
Because water and electricity aren’t the best bedfellows, Jeep have made sure that the battery pack is waterproof and likely never suffer infiltration, but if you think taking a dunk in the drink might be the last thing you do, don’t panic, Wrangler is still trail-rated to 760mm of submersion.
Christian Meunier (FCA Jeep’s Global President) said yesterday that “Our Jeep 4xe vehicles will be the most efficient, responsible and capable that the brand has ever created,” and “we are committed to making Jeep the greenest SUV brand. The electrification of the Jeep line-up 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.” Nice one Christian, I’m sure the Grizzly bears and Desert Bighorns of Outback USA will appreciate the new serenity and at the same time we can employ stealth-mode to sneak up on them for a peek.
Something else that will appeal to animals of the humankind is the miserly fuel consumption quoted at 4.7L/100kms (or 50mpg for the boomers out there). That’s pretty-cheap motoring right there provided the complexity of the engineering doesn’t add anything to the servicing costs. We’ll wait and see.
We’ve now tested both forms of the Wrangler and Gladiator Rubicon and both Steane and I agree that nothing even comes remotely close to one of these off-road. All of those off-road assets have been retained in this plug-in hybrid and they’ve even now likely fixed my biggest concern – range anxiety!
The charging is done via a simple push-open flap located on the LHS of the windscreen-to-bonnet cowl, the port glows with a row of LEDs to indicate the battery’s capacity. I haven’t been told how long that takes and I suppose it depends on the amount of juice you can supply it, but I’ll find out.
Hell, I can see a simple solution when I’m out in the field and I’m low on juice of both persuasions. That same thought I know hasn’t been lost on smart-types before and that is to carry a portable generator with you. Fire it up overnight, anywhere – problem solved!
There’s going to be increasingly more of this type of tech revealed to the world in the months and years ahead and suddenly I’m seeing all my anxiety for what the new world holds melt away. Yep, time to embrace it!