Jeep's fully electric concept Wrangler is a 'rock-climbing force'
Jeep's fully battery-electric concept vehicle matches the power output of a V-6 engine, but with immediate torque, the Jeep Wrangler Magneto SUV is expected to be a "rock-climbing force."
The Stellantis NV brand on Monday shared details of four new concept vehicles it will show Saturday through April 4 during the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. The event, which was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, gathers four-wheeling enthusiasts at the center of some of the most challenging terrain.
The Magneto is a retrofitted two-door 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. That means the engineers pulled out the engine, replacing it with an electric motor, and hooked up it to the six-speed manual transmission. All-electric vehicles typically don't have transmissions, but Mark Allen, head of Jeep's design studio, says it drives like an automatic once it's in gear, and at least with this manual, it can't stall.
Jeep has done some off-road testing in Michigan, but Allen said he is eager to test the vehicle on the rocky trails in Moab and get thoughts from Jeep enthusiasts about the EV concept. He teased the possibility of a production model.
"Moving to the BEV sometime in the near future, I want to know people's reaction to that," Allen said, noting Jeep expects to take Magneto to Moab over the next three years and make some tuning changes along the way. "Would it be done like this in production? No, it would be done a different way, but I wanted to get the feeling of a full battery electric."
The concept comes after the automaker this quarter began delivering Jeep's first plug-in hybrid model in North America, the Jeep Wrangler 4xe that starts at $47,995. General Motors Co. also is reintroducing its Hummer pickup for the 2022 model year as an all-electric model — with a price tag of $112,595.
Electric powertrains offering zero-emission and nearly silent drives may appeal to off-road enthusiasts. They also have performance benefits, including immediate torque and, in many cases, greater ability to control, said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at auto information website iSeeCars.com.
"There’s definitely a need for a brand as iconic and storied as Jeep to validate the idea that an electric powertrain and Jeep capability are compatible," he said.
Named Magneto, Allen said, because an EV's power comes from magnets being attracted to each other, the concept has four Webasto SE battery packs installed throughout the vehicle to balance its weight. They offer the combined power of 70 kilowatt-hours, running an 800-volt system.
Comparable to the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, the compact e-motor is tuned to deliver up to 273 pound-feet of torque and 285 horsepower. It also maintains Wrangler's 30-inch water-traversing capability thanks to waterproof battery enclosures. Magneto operates up to 6,000 revolutions per minute, and the concept runs 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds.
But Jeep designers say the throttle control and wheel speed is "unmatched" and actually highlighted how slowly the vehicle can run: It's able to travel about five feet in one minute.
"That's how slow it will go," Allen said. "That's incredible for control when you're precisely trying to navigate a rocky situation."
Concerns among four-wheeling enthusiasts with an all-electric Jeep, however, include finding places to charge the vehicle, especially on long camping trips. The brand is installing Jeep-branded solar-powered charging stations at its Badge of Honor trails in Moab and at the Rubicon Trail in California.
Also at the safari, Jeep will show the Jeepster Beach concept, a tequila gold-colored 1968 Jeepster Commando (C-101) blended with the capability of the 2020 Wrangler Rubicon's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
The new Jeep Red Bare concept outfits the Gladiator Rubicon mid-size pickup truck in a "fire cracker red" exterior with a turbocharged 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine that offers a 91:1 crawl ratio. The two-door Orange Peelz Wrangler concept also highlights Jeep's open-air driving, featuring aftersales division Mopar's Jeep Performance Parts half-doors.
Concepts introduced in 2020 also will be on display, including the overlanding-inspired Jeep Gladiator Farout with a truck-top tent, the Jeep Gladiator Top Dog aimed toward mountain bikers and the V-8-powered Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392.