If you go down to a dealership looking for off-road vehicles for sale, odds are you’ll find a lot of options that are more concerned with being rugged and capable than with offering good fuel economy. But electrification is the future of the auto industry, and with markets from Europe to California proposing eventual bans on gas-powered cars, more and more companies are working on adding electric power to their beloved nameplates. This means that electric vehicles and hybrids are becoming more diverse than ever before. While they used to be almost entirely restricted to small commuter cars, you can now find electric SUVs, pickup trucks, and even off-road vehicles.
You can’t buy an all-electric Jeep yet, but the company has announced that it will have four new electric SUVs by 2025. Switching to a fully electric powertrain while maintaining the off-roading stats and features that are the bedrock of Jeep’s reputation won’t be easy. Is Jeep going to remain the go-to brand for off-roaders once they drop in an electric powertrain? Let’s take a look at the hybrid Jeeps already on the market and what we know so far about the EVs that are coming soon.
4xe Hits the Scene
Jeep first revealed its plug-in hybrid technology to the public at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, along with the name 4xe (pronounced “four by e”). The company rolled up to the show with hybrid versions of the Wrangler, Renegade, and Compass. While the Renegade 4xe and Compass 4xe are both currently available in Europe, neither has made it to the States just yet. The US does have two 4xe models on the market today: the iconic Wrangler and the spacious Grand Cherokee.
All 4xe models have a few things in common. In addition to a gas-powered engine, the powertrain features an electric motor that you can plug in to recharge. Since the vehicle has two separate power sources, driving modes give you the option to use either one or both at the same time. Hybrid mode gives you maximum efficiency and capability, Electric mode runs entirely on battery power, and E-Save mode uses just the gas engine, so you can save battery power for later.
In order to give off-road drivers power where they need it most, Jeep has plans to build charging stations at OHV trails across the country. The stations will offer Level 2 charging, allowing drivers to get the Wrangler 4xe’s battery from empty to full in about two hours. The solar panels powering the stations will provide both clean energy and a bit of shade.
The Wrangler 4xe
Jeep’s off-roading darling, the Wrangler, got an electric makeover. The Wrangler 4xe debuted for the 2021 model year, and it didn’t take long for it to catch on with drivers. During the first half of 2022, it was the best-selling plug-in hybrid in the United States, beating Toyota’s RAV4 Prime by a significant margin. One factor in the hybrid’s success is that Jeep made sure to keep the Wrangler as rugged and off-road ready as ever. For instance, the battery pack was put in the space under the rear seat to ensure that the 4xe has the same ground clearance as non-hybrid Wranglers.
The Wrangler 4xe can deliver up to 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. None of the V6 or four-cylinder engine options can match those stats; only the 6.4L V8 on the Rubicon 392 has more horsepower (470 hp), and the two are tied when it comes to torque. That means that hybrid drivers can confidently crawl over rocky terrain with the same level of torque as a top-of-the-line edition that costs tens of thousands of dollars more than the highest hybrid trim level.
The Grand Cherokee 4xe
The 4xe powertrain became available on the Grand Cherokee for the 2022 model year. Hybrid Grand Cherokees come standard with all-wheel drive (unlike models that come with the base V6 engine) and offer some of the same stats as the Wrangler 4xe: 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque with 25 miles of all-electric range. However, the Grand Cherokee gets an estimated 56 MPGe, compared to the Wrangler’s 49 MPGe, and has a total driving range of 470 miles. The Grand Cherokee 4xe has a max towing capacity of 6,000 lbs, and thanks to a water-sealed battery pack, drivers can safely ford up to 24 inches of water.
The Recently Announced Jeep EVs: Recon and Wagoneer S
Jeep has announced the first three electric models it will be coming out with. The first is the Jeep Recon, a classic Jeep 4×4 with a heart for adventure on the paths less traveled. We should see this model going into production sometime around 2024. There isn’t much information on this model yet, but we do know it is being designed to be able to cross the Rubicon Trail on one charge.
While technically not a Jeep, the Wagoneer S is also coming to the market for a bit of a luxury upgrade. Jeep’s luxury off-shoot is quickly getting into the EV game with this new model, offering drivers the American premium feel that comes with the Wagoneer name. Don’t get it twisted, though; the Wagoneer is still ready to take on the trails.
Still to Be Announced: A Wrangler EV
Jeep previewed a concept for an all-electric Wrangler called Magneto at the 2021 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. However, in a surprising turn of events, the brand is releasing other EV models first. While we do have to wonder what the hold up for Jeep’s all-electric off-road warrior is, there is still a lot we can look forward to.
The Magneto concept has four battery packs that are spread around the body of the vehicle in order to keep it well-balanced. Together, they provide a total of 70.0 kWh and can deliver up to 285 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Interestingly, the Magneto featured a six-speed manual transmission, apparently in order to get regenerative power from engaging the clutch. While the Magneto gives us some insight into how the mass-market Wrangler EV will look and perform, there are almost certainly plenty of changes that will be made between this concept and the first generation that’s available to the public.
On top of the tech in the motor and battery, Jeep has teased some other cutting-edge features that could be available on the Wrangler EV. A video released as part of Stellantis’s EV Day event in 2021 hinted at the possibility of biometric recognition, peer-to-peer charging, and the ability to pair the Wrangler with a drone, which could be used to provide an extra source of light while exploring trails in the dark. The video even suggests that the Wrangler may be capable of fully autonomous driving by 2030, though the text “future models and features may vary” at the bottom of the screen encourages viewers to take all of these predictions with a grain of salt.
Do Adventurers Dream of Electric Jeep?
Jeep’s new slogan of “Zero Emission Freedom” may not feel quite right to EV-skeptical drivers today. Our less-than-comprehensive charging infrastructure, paired with the limited range of many all-electric vehicles, makes the concept a dealbreaker for some. As more and more automakers electrify their lineup and technology continues to improve, those limitations are already shrinking. Plug-in hybrids allow drivers to give electric power a try without totally giving up their ability to fill up at a gas station. Perhaps by the time Jeep’s 100% electric-powered vehicles are released, the 4xe drivers of today will be convinced to upgrade to full-fledged EVs.
Jeep has already completed the Rubicon Trail entirely in the EV driving mode of a Grand Cherokee 4xe, which has just 25 miles of all-electric range. We may not have all the details on Jeep’s upcoming EVs yet, but based on what we’ve seen so far, we can assume that the company will take what they’ve learned from their line of plug-in hybrids and create more powerful and capable electric motors, paired with rugged vehicle bodies that are ready to tackle the toughest trails. Those who enjoy exploring the great outdoors in their Jeep should be happy to have a greener option that can help protect the natural wonders they love for years to come.