What an all-electric Jeep Wrangler could look like

Every year, thousands of Jeep enthusiasts gather in Moab, Utah for an event called the Easter Jeep Safari. The eight-day off-road vacation in one of the world’s best rock crawling venues has evolved over the years into an opportunity for Jeep to connect with its fans.

Meanwhile, a cabal of engineers within the company have banded together over the years to develop a series of concept cars that debut at the event. Sometimes these teasers give potential customers a taste of what the company is cooking up for future product unveilings, or at least items that may be made available as factory accessories in the future.

In 2021, the world was treated to the all-electric Jeep Wrangler Magneto concept. And on April 9, Jeep unveiled an updated Magneto 2.0 concept. The two concepts, along with Jeep parent company Stellantis’ EV Day last July, make it crystal clear that an all-electric version of the iconic Wrangler is in the cards in the near future.

Electric propulsion has some unique features that allow EVs to excel in off-road environments. An electric vehicle is much quieter than its gasoline or diesel-powered counterparts, allowing the EV off-road pilot to hear what the tires and suspension are doing. Electric motors also deliver power from the moment the driver’s foot comes into contact with the gas pedal. Without having to work around powertrain delays, an electric-powered Jeep would be better accustomed to climbing over rocks and ruts on the trail. And all of this is before you get to the environmental impact considerations of trail riding free of exhaust emissions.

The trial in 2021

The 2021 Wrangler Magneto concept was a good first attempt, but was immediately seen as a half-baked deal. With just 285 horsepower on tap, it offered poor performance for an electric vehicle. It also retained its factory manual transmission, gearbox and lock axles, making it clear that this was an ill-conceived concept, primitive in practice compared to modern EVs already on sale, and technologically overshadowed by production-ready electric SUVs like the Rivian’s R1T and GMC’s Hummer EV .

Crucially, if Jeep wants to be taken seriously with the launch of an electric SUV, it would have to convince Jeep fanatics that the EV was not just a replacement for, but an improvement over, the Wranglers they love. It would also have to convince EV enthusiasts that Jeep was the way forward. To do that would have to take some big steps beyond the original Magneto concept.

2022 version

With its second attempt, the Magneto 2.0 Concept, unveiled at this year’s Easter Jeep Safari, it appears Jeep has done just that. A new electric powertrain, now featuring a more capable motor and larger battery pack, improves power and torque significantly over last year’s effort.

Like the original Magneto, the second generation still has a manual transmission, this time a 6-speed unit taken from Dodge’s Challenger Hellcat to handle the massive power output. The Magneto 2.0 now has 625 horsepower and an electric torque of 825 lb-ft. It allows the all-terrain beast to sprint from 0-60 miles per hour in just two seconds, making it as fast as a Tesla Model S Plaid, but in a Jeep.

Most electric vehicles eschew multi-speed transmissions in favor of a single gear because electric motors can rev at much higher speeds than the average gasoline engine and deliver power in a more predictable manner. By sticking with a six-speed manual transmission, the Jeep concept allows for more options during off-road driving. An electric vehicle can’t stop and doesn’t need a clutch to start moving, so you can effectively put the transmission in any gear and instantly roll out of a stop. This allows the rider to select a low gear and still have a very slow but extremely torque multiplying “creep” gear, which is helpful for maintaining grip when climbing a trail.

[Related: Meet the Hurricane, a new twin-turbocharged engine by Stellantis]

The Magneto 2.0 Concept starts out as a two-door Wrangler, though a full foot has been added to the vehicle’s wheelbase to make more room for batteries. Jeep engineers then fitted the SUV with a three-inch lift kit and 20-inch wheels, as well as some extremely fat track tires. To save some of the weight that came with batteries and the stretched chassis, the company ditched the roof entirely in favor of a bikini-style top, replacing the factory steel and plastic panels with featherweight carbon fiber.

What’s next for Jeep’s parent company and electric cars

It’s clear that Stellantis, and Jeep as a result, is preparing for an electrified future. At the company’s EV Day last year, Jeep announced the slogan “Zero Emissions Freedom.” Jeep currently offers four different plug-in hybrid models around the world, although only the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee are offered in the US market. While the so-called 4xe models have been very well known in the market so far, these plug-in hybrids are simply a stopgap for the brand’s vision. To get to a truly zero-emissions future, Jeep will need to introduce some battery-electric models quickly if it hopes to keep up with the new players in the EV off-road game.

The brand has an ambitious goal of selling “zero-emission” versions of all its vehicles by 2025, so it stands to reason that the electric Wrangler could be coming soon. In fact, Jeep’s first all-electric model will launch in early 2023, based on the company’s Compass compact crossover. The transition to electrification is happening, and while Jeep has been a little late to the party, it seems interested in making up for lost time.

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