2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Jeep has only recently nailed its colors to the diesel mast, but already the famous off-road arm of Chrysler is looking to other propulsion technologies--namely hybrid vehicles.
Executives at the company have called the move to electrification "inevitable", according to Drive--but they're also concerned by the reliability of such systems in an off-road environment, an arena in which many Jeep owners are still interested.
Jeep's interest in hybrid models isn't difficult to understand.
Steve Bartoli, Chrysler's Asia-Pacific product planning manager, told Drive that Jeep sees "a lot of opportunity" in the systems for next-generation all-wheel drive technology. The instant low-down torque of electric motors--and its infinitely variable and configurable output--could prove ideal for serious off-road applications.
At the same time, "We always want to make sure a Jeep can get you home," notes Bartoli. Engineers at the company need to be sure electric motors and battery packs are reliable enough under strenuous off-road use.
That's even more the case for possible all-electric models--Jeep considers range a very important issue, as no owner wants to be "stuck in a creek in an electric Jeep that is going nowhere".
Hybrid Jeeps would likely be part of a larger plan for hybrid models across Chrysler's line-up, but the company has lagged behind rivals like Ford and GM in getting such products to market--the company has previously hinted at hybrid versions of both the 300 sedan and a minivan, neither of which has been forthcoming.
Chrysler has also taken some time to get other new fuel-saving technologies to market, like its long-awaited nine-speed automatic transmission.
In the meantime, the automaker still offers the Grand Cherokee with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, capable of 25 mpg combined and up to 30 mpg on the highway. And group boss Sergio Marchionne may not be keen, but Chrysler does have one electric vehicle on sale too--the Fiat 500E.
Given the development work Jeep still has to do on hybrid models though, it could be some time before we actually see a hybrid or all-electric model appear wearing the Jeep badge.