Should Next Gen Jeep Wrangler JL and JT Pickup Use Chrysler’s eHybrid Drive? [Op/Ed]

2018 jeep wrangler jl hybrid electric poll opinion
Jeep Wrangler JL test mule

Anticipation of the next generation Jeep Wrangler JL and JT pickup truck is reaching a fever pitch. Jeep says that the official debut of the Wrangler JL is something “we will see next.” Jeep did not provide specifics, but we hope the latest Wrangler will drop at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show in early January, 2017.

We recently got several “leaked” images and artist sketches at what the JL will look like. The shape and style are expected to stay true to the iconic Wrangler image. The seven-slot grille and the windshield are expected to get more rake for improved aerodynamics, and a new modular roof system should add to the versatility.

Every manufacturer is chasing better fuel efficiency and the Wrangler is not immune to this. So far, three powertrain choices are predicted or rumored for the JL – a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine with around 300 horsepower (codename: Hurricane), an updated 3.6L Pentastar V6 gasoline engine, and a turbo-diesel engine, possibly the 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 that is shared with the Ram 1500.

There is one other powertrain choice that Jeep should consider. The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica eHybrid plug-in minivan combines a 3.6L Pentastar V6 with a 9-speed automatic transmission, a dual-electric motor system, and a sizable 16 kWh battery for a combined 260 horsepower, 80 MPGe, an average 30 miles of electric-only driving, and over 530 miles of total driving range. I had a change to drive the Pacifica eHybrid near and around Los Angeles and I came away very impressed. Chrysler’s eHybrid system delivers strong acceleration, gas V6 and the electric motors work together seamlessly, and – more importantly – offers lots of torque and long distance range.

2018 Jeep Wrangler jl
Jeep Wrangler JL test mule

It’s no secret that plentiful low-end torque of the electric motors is most welcome for hard off-roading and rock crawling. Also, added efficiency is a huge benefit for an long distance road trip or the next overland adventure. These are the same benefits that a turbo-diesel powertrain brings to the table.

There are some technical challenges to overcome if plug-in hybrid versions of the Wrangler JL or JT are to see production. First is the packaging and added weight. The Pacifica eHybrid weighs around 650 pounds more than a regular Pacifica V6. However, the Pacifica eHybrid still weighs less than 5,000 lbs. Considering that Jeep is working to make the JL’s curb weight lighter than that of the JK, 650 pounds of extra hybrid system weight could be within the realm of possibility without completely obliterating payload capacity.

Next is the challenge of incorporating the eHybrid system to work with Jeep’s 4×4 system. The Pacifica minivan is FWD only at this time. Also, the 16 kWh battery pack and related components take up an entire Stow-n-Go minivan compartment in the minivan. However, this batter size makes the Pacifica eligible for $7,500 federal tax credit and other local/state tax credits. Where to put this battery in the Wrangler? That is a big question. However, the turbo-diesel also poses many packaging challenges because of the DEF tank and exhaust after-treatment systems.

How would you like your Jeep Wrangler JL powered? Do you think a plug-in Hybrid is a viable option? Use the poll and the comments section below to let us know.

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Here are Nathan and Andre chasing a Jeep Wrangler JL test mule at the top of the Rocky Mountains.