The next Wrangler may include hybridization, says Jeep President and CEO Mike Manley.
In an interview with Auto Express, Manley said a hybrid powertrain and a U.S.-only diesel powertrain are both under consideration for the 2017 redesign. Because off-road capabilities are paramount for many Wrangler drivers, four-wheel drive performance will be a key consideration for selecting the powertrain.
“For those people who use the Wrangler, the most important thing is the initial torque and the crawl ratio,” said Manley. “With an electric motor you have the most torque available and with the right combination of transmission and gear ratios you can create incredible crawl ratios.”
While crawl ratios are unique to SUV hybrids, drivers with an electrically-powered Jeep could still share one major concern with electric sedan owners: range anxiety. Because a depleted battery on a Jeep could leave a driver stranded in the wilderness, not on the edge of the highway, Manley said range requires extra attention.
“If you are eight hours and four miles into a trail, there is not a hybrid that we could do which could provide the battery support,” said Manley. “The way that combination is calibrated would be more unique for a Wrangler than it would, for example, a Grand Cherokee.”
On board to oversee the design and development of the Wrangler’s possible hybrid powertrain is Jeffrey P. Lux, Fiat Chrysler’s transmission powertrain vice president. He was hired last year after working 27 years with General Motors, and was chief engineer of GM’s hybrid electric drive units in 2009.
More than just the powertrain may change for the new Wrangler, hints Manley.
“The use of aluminium and high-strength steel is huge for us. There is opportunity for carbon fiber as well,” Manley told Auto Express. “You will see more advanced technologies used than on the current vehicle, as it needs to be more capable than the previous one.”
And, at the end of the day, Manley adds that the next generation must still inherently be a Jeep:
“From a styling point of view we have to be very careful – if we styled a Wrangler that didn’t look like a Wrangler, I would have to have eight security guards!”