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Yes, Even Jeep Is Making Bold Claims about Its Electric Future

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 1/16/2020 Adam Kaslikowski
a truck parked on the side of a snow covered mountain: If you like Jeeps' old-school vibe, you're about to get a shock. On the other hand, imagine how nice it will be to have a silent EV while out in the backcountry. © FCA If you like Jeeps' old-school vibe, you're about to get a shock. On the other hand, imagine how nice it will be to have a silent EV while out in the backcountry.
  • You knew it was coming: Jeep global president Christian Meunier says the company is all in for electric and hybrid versions of the classic SUVs, starting with the China-market Jeep Commander.
  • As seen at the CES technology show earlier in January, Jeep's U.S. electrification will start with hybrid versions of the Renegade, Compass, and Wrangler under the 4xe name.
  • By 2022, every Jeep in the lineup will have a hybrid or electric variant, he said.

In the several months since Christian Meunier took over the reins of Jeep worldwide, the new global president of the Jeep brand has made it clear he's focusing less on interior features and luxuries, more on technology. Predictably, as goes the entire industry, so goes the off-roading icon. Christian recently told Car and Driver that his plans for the Jeep brand in the 2020s include an aggressive plan to launch plug-in-hybrid and, later, electric Jeeps throughout the coming decade.

a car parked on the side of a road: China-market Jeep Commander plug-in hybrid. © FCA China-market Jeep Commander plug-in hybrid.

That's ambitious, considering Jeep only launched its first hybrid in November 2019. The plug-in-hybrid variant of the China-market Commander is an SUV of roughly Grand Cherokee size that starts at an equivalent of $44,070 after Chinese subsidies.

China's position as the largest automotive sales market in the world means the country is an oversize reason for many of Jeep's electrification plans. Cars there are taxed and classified by engine size, with larger engines becoming prohibitively expensive. Hybrids and EVs short-circuit these rules, however, so they're available to much larger swath of the buying market. Lucky for us that U.S. consumers get to benefit from these greener vehicles as well.

a blue car on display: Jeep Compass 4xe plug-in hybrid at CES, January 2020. © Joey Capparella - Car and Driver Jeep Compass 4xe plug-in hybrid at CES, January 2020.

"As Many Electric Jeeps As We Can"

What we are getting stateside—in part because of this Chinese effort, according to Meunier—is a whole range of hybrid and electric Jeeps. "We're bringing as many electric Jeeps as we can. Next year, we will have the [plug-in-hybrid] Renegade, Compass, and Wrangler," he said. For those keeping track at home, that would be half of the Jeep models available in the U.S.; the others are the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, and Gladiator. We showed you images of the Wrangler hybrid mule driving around southeastern Michigan last March.

Research

Three hybrid model rollouts in a year? That's a fairly aggressive timeline, and it will be interesting to see if Jeep can hit it. So far, hybrids have certainly been a mixed bag for manufacturers. Representing roughly 2 percent or less of new-car sales in the U.S. since 2015 (and never more than 3.2 percent since 2001), hybrids have hardly captured the public's desire. However, Toyota shifted a full 25 percent of all RAV4s sold last year in the hybrid spec, so there are clearly winners in the space.

By 2022, Meunier vows that all Jeep models will have an electrified variant—which could mean hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or fully electric. While that sounds ambitious, it largely tracks with industry-wide trends and product timelines from competing manufacturers, both domestic and foreign. FCA as a whole is moving towards more hybridization, and component and technology sharing will be key to making this a quick and cost-effective rollout of electric technology.

It's important to note, though, that we have absolutely no details about any future fully electric Jeep model yet.

Meunier didn't provide any, but he expressed excitement about the prospects of off-roading in a Wrangler under battery-only propulsion. He spoke of pairing EV silence with the pleasure of being in the backcountry with the doors removed, the roof open, and the Wrangler crawling up a slick rock. To him, that would make the experience much closer to nature. Well, it does make sense if you look at it that way.

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