Jeep has given its fans who want a greener, better vehicle something solid to look forward to. Here’s what Jeep has planned.
Unlike the never-ending list of startups and pretenders who conduct a new vehicle “launch” with a single hand-built prototpye and no factory in which to build it, Jeep held off on sharing its EV plan for years. Instead of the unkept promises and missed deadlines typical of EV launches, Jeep simply brought two new production-ready plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to the Geneva auto show this week and put them on the show floor. Concurrent with that tangible evidence that Jeep has EVs on the way, the company also outlined a substantial plan to prepare its U.S. factories for the manufacturing of EVs in real numbers.
Jeep’s parent company is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). Its former chairman, Sergio Marchionne, passed away this year, and he was not thought of highly in some EVangelist circles. Why? Partly because he dared to speak openly about battery-only EVs being unprofitable, saying, “I don’t know of a (business) that is making money selling electric vehicles unless you are selling them at the very, very high end of the spectrum.” He went further a year ago, saying, “These proclamations that we hear about the advent of electrification and artificial intelligence and the inevitable association of artificial intelligence with electrification are all things which at best are conjecture. So making an announcement at the Detroit auto show that we’re going to have X-number of vehicles that are electrified in the future … is that a wise economic thing to say? The answer is probably ‘no.’ ”
Rather than vaporware, FCA has created models for sale to its customers. It is the only company in America offering a large, affordable, three-row family vehicle with an electric drivetrain, the Pacifica Hybrid (PHEV). Now Jeep has just shown two new models with PHEV drivetrains, the Jeep Compass and Renegade PHEVs. Instead of low-volume luxury cars, these two will land in the affordable compact crossover market, one of the highest-volume segments in the industry.
The Compass PHEV and Renegade PHEV will be all-wheel drive, using a dedicated rear electric motor to drive the rear wheels. Jeep is also providing these new EVs with more, not less, performance than its gasoline-only trims. Jeep has provided an estimate of a 0-60 time of about 7-seconds. Power is about 240 hp, and the EV-only range will be about 31 miles before the vehicles revert to hybrid drive. More importantly, the high torque at low RPMs offered by the EV drives will aid in off-roading. Electric drive for off-road vehicles is a no-brainer and these new PHEVs will fit right in with Jeep’s culture.
Marchionne first told the world Jeep’s electrification plans last July. At that time, he informed the global market that Jeep was moving away from dirty diesel to cleaner hybrids, PHEVs and EVs. This week, the company gave more specific details on its U.S. production plans for EVs. Jeep is investing about $4 billion to prepare its plants for the next generation of its vehicles. Jeep says that three of its assembly sites are being prepared for the production of plug-in hybrid versions of their respective Jeep models with the flexibility to build fully battery-electric models in the future.
Social media and even mainstream media are daily reporting the “next big electric vehicle.” Almost all of it is pie in the sky posturing by companies with no real products to show. Jeep is one of the few large automakers simply walking the walk instead of talking the talk. And doing so at a pace that it feels makes the company stay profitable.