Jeep on Thursday showed off its plug-in hybrid 2021 Wrangler 4xe, which carries a battery permitting up to 25 miles of all-electric travel.
The plug-in hybrid format lets Jeep fans run in-town errands purely in electric mode and then switch to a hybrid format for distance driving or off-roading.
Motorists could also switch to electric mode off-road and enjoy nature in relative powertrain silence or have fun climbing stuff with the torque-forward electric motor.
“All Wrangler 4xe power modes are available when the drivetrain is shifted to 4Lo,” Jeep wrote in a news release. “The seamless integration of electric power into the 4×4 drivetrain elevates the Wrangler 4xe to new levels of off-road performance.
“Enthusiasts will find that the instant availability of torque from the Wrangler 4xe’s electric motor delivers a more precise and controlled driving experience for climbing and crawling – there’s no need to build up engine rpm to get the tires to move, minimizing driveline shock loading and maximizing control and speed.
“In EV mode, the Wrangler 4xe treads lightly and silently, conserving fuel and allowing occupants to focus solely on the sights and full sounds of nature.”
The 400-volt lithium-ion, nickel manganese cobalt battery pack sits under a redesigned second-row seat able to flip up for battery access.
The battery is encased in aluminum, with a steel structure underneath protecting the power inverter module and the unit containing the hybrid battery charger and DC/DC converter.
“All high-voltage electronics, including the wiring between the battery pack and the electric motors, are sealed and waterproof,” Jeep wrote. It said the Wrangler 4xe can still ford 30 inches of water.
The current-generation Jeep Wrangler uses significant levels of aluminum and steel — and even tacks on a partly magnesium tailgate. Aside from those two casings mentioned above, Jeep spokesman Nick Cappa said repairers won’t see significant lightweighting or other structural changes related to the electric powertrain.
“The latest Wrangler platform took this advanced drivetrain into consideration from the start,” Cappa wrote in an email. “That said, the changes are built in to accept the 4xe system. I’m sure you are aware of the expanded use of aluminum on the Wrangler body vs. the previous model. There are a number of controllers, skid plate protection and high-voltage lines on the 4xe but nothing unusual in materials that differentiates it from a standard Wrangler platform.”
Shops will notice potentially an interesting chassis feature on some Wrangler 4xes. Jeep announced it would sell an “industry first, OEM-developed” 2-inch lift kit “specifically engineered and tuned for the Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid application.”
Moving to the exterior, the Rubicon version of the Wrangler 4xe will carry multiple aesthetic changes highlighting its powertrain. It’s unclear how many of these, if any, translate over to the base 4xe and Sahara 4xe variants.
“Exclusive content identifies the Jeep Wrangler 4xe as the most technologically advanced Wrangler ever,” Jeep wrote. “New Electric Blue coloring on the front and rear Rubicon tow hooks stands out against the black bumpers. The unique blue coloring also traces the Rubicon name on the hood, Jeep badge and the Trail Rated badge. Select Easter egg design cues also receive the Electric Blue shade. The black hood decal is outlined in the special color with ‘4xe’ that lets the body color show through.”
Ten exterior colors are available for any of the Wrangler 4xes, including “Granite Crystal Metallic,” “Billet Silver Metallic,” “Snazzberry,” and “Hella Yella.”
Battery cooling and traditional AC
Jeep mentioned the battery cooling system in its news release, and Capps shared some further details in an email. The comments from the OEM indicate that repairers should expect some changes to the regular AC system.
“Encased in an aluminum housing, the pack is fitted with a dedicated heating and cooling circuit to keep the battery at its optimum temperature for best performance,” Jeep wrote. “The temperature control circuit includes a dedicated heater unit and a chiller that uses the Wrangler air-conditioning refrigerant to reduce coolant temperature when needed.”
We asked Capps if this meant refrigerant was flowing from the AC system in the front of the vehicle to the battery or if the battery had its own refrigerant tank. He elaborated on both the battery cooling and the heating.
“In order to guarantee maximum capability, the Wrangler 4xe is equipped with both a dedicated battery heater and a battery chiller, which are activated as necessary. Both components are located in a dedicated glycol loop that routes through them and the heat transfer plate below the battery modules inside the pack. Glycol is separated from the high voltage modules via a cast machined aluminum barrier.
“The chiller is cooled via the air conditioning refrigerant. That system is powered by the High Voltage electric compressor (so it doesn’t need the engine running to work). Other air conditioning components (e.g. the condenser in front of the radiator) are up-rated to handle the additional battery cooling task.
“The electric heater is also powered by the vehicle’s High Voltage system. It is completely separate from the electric cabin heater and both can run simultaneously, e.g. when starting after an overnight outdoor soak in Yellowknife BC.”
FCA, Sept. 3, 2020
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe’s aluminum battery pack and steel structure underneath protecting the power inverter module and the unit containing the hybrid battery charger and DC/DC converter are seen here in blue. (Provided by Jeep)
The Jeep Wrangler 4xe’s 400-volt lithium-ion, nickel manganese cobalt battery pack sits under a redesigned second-row seat able to flip up for battery access. The Rubicon variant is shown. (Provided by Jeep)
New plug-in hybrid powertrain elements on the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe are shown in blue. (Provided by Jeep)
New plug-in hybrid powertrain elements on the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe are shown in blue beneath the body of the Rubicon variant in this graphic. (Provided by Jeep)
The plug-in hybrid 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon is shown. (Provided by Jeep)