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Power Takeoff: 2020 Jeep Wrangler Plug-In Hybrid Will Be More Than a Fuel-Economy Play

Among all the models in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles fold to be given a plug-in hybrid powertrain, the Jeep Wrangler may seem the least likely. But considering how Wrangler owners use their vehicles, it actually might be one of the vehicles best suited to embrace that technology.

The Jeep Wrangler plug-in hybrid, a long-rumored variant confirmed by brand chief Mike Manley at the Los Angeles auto show, helps address one obvious concern: As much as the Wrangler permits freedom, it’s a drag on the company’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE). “It’s clearly an efficiency play,” said Jeep brand marketing director Scott Tallon. “But what it also does is provide other benefits—it will allow us to leverage the technology in a completely different way.”

Specifically, the plug-in hybrid system likely will allow Jeep to incorporate a power takeoff that could be used during camping, for instance, or potentially as an emergency backup power source at the cabin.

The Wrangler plug-in hybrid project isn’t being developed from scratch. It will use some of the core hybrid-system components of the Pacifica hybrid, including the eFlite transaxle with its planetary gearset and one-way clutch, revised to fit the Wrangler’s very different layout and purpose. For instance, Tallon said, the plug-in hybrid will still need to ford up to 30 inches of water, just like the standard Wrangler.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid key powertrain components
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The Wrangler plug-in will offer EV-only driving during some conditions, Tallon confirmed, similar to the Pacifica hybrid, but it’s too early to confirm whether that will come in the form of a single driving mode as in the minivan. It could allow impressive performance where it counts for the Wrangler with significantly more torque at low speeds, which would make it particularly well suited to off-roading—very quiet off-roading that could be great for spotting wildlife.

The plug-in Wrangler won’t go on sale until calendar year 2020, but there are a couple of other, greener Wrangler options arriving before then. In addition to the new eTorque hybrid system that comes with the base turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, in 2019 the Wrangler will get a turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V-6 engine option, something long requested by owners. (Don’t worry, the Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 is also still in the mix.)

As Jeep’s Manley said at the new JL Wrangler’s debut, the plug-in hybrid future-proofs the viability of the nameplate. And it also allows owners to tread lighter on the Earth, with the potential side benefit of additional versatility.

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