Jeep puts electrification front and center at Easter Jeep Safari
When Stellantis brand Jeep descended on Moab, Utah this week for its annual off-roading and concept roadshow, electrification ruled the road.
The automaker showed off this week seven concepts — four of which are electrified — from the Jeep brand and Jeep Performance Parts (JPP) by Mopar ahead of the Easter Jeep Safari, an annual multi-day event hosted by Moab’s Red Rock 4-Wheelers. Jeep is not the organizer of the Easter Jeep Safari. However, the company does use the annual gathering to showcase a handful of concept vehicles to give the world (and media) a sense of what might be coming down the road. TechCrunch was on hand to test all of them in a controlled off-road environment.
While the concept vehicles were equipped with an array of powertrains, it was hard to ignore the variety of plug-in hybrid and battery-electric setups. (Although it was also sure hard to miss the Jeep Scrambler 392 concept equipped with a 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 engine that’s inspired by the 1981 Jeep Scrambler (CJ-8), the brand’s first convertible, compact truck.)
The main electric showstopper was the Magneto 3.0, the third version of an battery-electric vehicle concept developed by the Jeep brand.
As a reminder, the Magneto 2.0, which was shown last year, was equipped with an 800-volt electrical architecture and four lithium-ion battery packs — for a total of 70 kWh — located in the middle and rear to distribute the weight. An axial flux electric motor, along with an inverter derived from race cars that converts DC power to AC in the new motor, operated up to 5,250 rpm. The most notable feature in the Jeep Wrangler Magneto concept 2.0 was a six-speed manual transmission and a propulsion system that could maintain a peak amperage of 600 A for 10 seconds. The end result was a system that could deliver 850 pound-feet (1,152 Nm) of torque to the wheels and travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in two seconds.
Jeep makes a number of improvements to the Magneto 3.0, including the addition of a more efficient motor that boosts the torque output. Importantly, that manual transmission remains in this third version.
The Magneto 3.0 also has three new driver settings and developers tweaked the vehicle’s software to increase useable energy and range by 20%.
Drivers can chose between two power settings in the Magneto 3.0. The standard setting provides 285 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque or maximum setting for 650 horsepower and 900 lb.-ft. of torque. There’s also a two-stage power feature that lets drivers enhance or diminish brake regeneration using the electric motor. Jeep also added an aggressive hill descent mode that can be selected in low range to offer ‘one pedal’ off-road driving in serious rock-crawling situations.
Jeep’s designers also tinkered a bit with the vehicle proportion as well as exterior and interior touches.
The door opening is now swept back an additional six inches and the B-pillar also moves a bit to the rear to make room for a custom anti-roll bar. The windshield has been adjusted back about 12 degrees to give a chopped roof feel without shortening the front glass, according to Jeep.
On the exterior, designers stuck with the white and surf blue paint motif and added some zippier red accents. Inside, the color theme continues with the front seats re-trimmed in a blue leather and xxx with red accent stitching to match the exterior.
To complete the look, the Jeep team gave the concept Dynatrac 60 front axles, Dynatrac 80 rear axles, 20-inch off-road beadlock wheels, 40-inch mud terrain tires and a custom 3-inch lift.
Plug-in hybrid concepts
Jeep also showed off three other electrified concepts — all plug-in hybrids under the 4xe label that has become a popular seller for the brand.
The company developed an eye-popping chromatic magenta Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe concept, a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe Departure concept that experiments with the location of the spare wheel and tire mount to push the limits of departure angles, and a resto-moded Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept that gives homage to the two-door 1978 Jeep Cherokee SJ.
While all of these are concepts, there are elements that will likely make it the showroom floor. Do we think a resto-moded SJ will make it to market? Nope.
But looking under the hood, so to speak, the ’78 Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept does contain features that will — and do — exist. The powertrain combines two electric motors, a battery pack and a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 engine. That combined with an eight-speed automatic transmission, mated to a 4:1 transfer case, delivers plenty of power for on and off road travel.
The same holds true for the other 4xe concepts, which contain a number of elements that are either available today or soon will be. For instance, look past the special paint and gloss black accents on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe Concept and you’ll notice a seven-slot grille that was borrowed from the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 20th Anniversary model.
Those tricked out paint jobs and boundary-pushing exterior designs might not make it to market next year. But based on what Jeep is showcasing at Easter Jeep Safari 2023, there’s no doubt that the brand will continue to put electrification at the center of its roadmap.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.