by Matt Konkle
Quadratec Channel Editor
Square headlights. Four doors. Removable soft or hardtops. Foldable windshield.
There have been a lot of innovations as Jeep has evolved over its 79-year history.
And now, as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles heads to Las Vegas for next week’s Consumer Electronics Showcase event, it is set to release another one for its Wrangler lineup.
FCA Thursday announced it is planning to bring three plug-in electric hybrid vehicles, including a Jeep Wrangler JL, to CES. The automaker will also display a Renegade and Compass to round out its electrified offerings at the show, and all three will display FCA’s new ‘Jeep 4xe’ badging.
The company says these three plug-in hybrids represent the first steps in the brand’s plan to offer electrification in all Jeep models by 2022, while the Wrangler delivers on a promise made by FCA CEO Mike Manley in 2017 to have an electric Wrangler by this year.
"Jeep electric vehicles will be the most efficient and responsible Jeep vehicles ever, providing absolute and quiet open-air freedom while taking performance, 4x4 capability and driver confidence to the next level,” FCA said in a statement. “With greater torque and immediate engine response, Jeep electric vehicles will offer an even more fun-to-drive experience on the road, and more capability than ever off-road."
While the Renegade and Compass plug-ins made their debuts last March at the Geneva International Motor Show, this Wrangler edition will be an all-new model that, so far, has only been caught on film.
Not much is known about the vehicle at this point either, but the photos do show it will not deviate from the traditional Wrangler appearance—with the exception of a plug-in port most likely on the driver side near the front fender.
Now keep in mind this is not a fully-electric Wrangler, but a plug-in hybrid that will incorporate an internal combustion engine to supplement power at higher speeds or longer distances. Most likely this means FCA’s workhorse 3.6L Pentastar engine will live inside the bay.
Fiat Chrysler currently utilizes this same set up in its Pacifica minivan—combining the Pentastar with a 16.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that fully charges in two hours on a 240-volt, 30-amp circuit, or in just over 14 hours using a 120-volt wall plug. That combination provides about 30 miles of electric-only range.
In contrast, the smaller Compass and Renegade combine a turbocharged 1.3L engine up front, with a electric motor in the back that, FCA says, provides upwards of 240 horsepower along with around 31 miles of all-electric range.
FCA has not released any specs on the plug-in hybrid Wrangler, but it will almost certainly strive to create a rugged and durable hybrid system that performs just as well off-road as on pavement. Especially as electrification gives enthusiasts access to immediate engine response and significant low-end torque—both excellent features for those into off-roading.
FCA already does offer a mild-hybrid engine option in the current Wrangler JL line, dubbed eTorque, but that set up is primarily fueled by either a 3.6L or 2.0L engine, while using a smaller 48-volt battery to store energy while braking. This energy is then released upon acceleration.
FCA said it would release more details on the plug-in Wrangler, Compass and Renegade at upcoming auto shows in Geneva, New York and Beijing, and the company expects availability later this year.