A Jeep Wrangler with a plug and an electric motor is finally here. The Wrangler 4xe—pronounced “four-by-e,” like “four-by-four”—mixes a battery, electric motor, and turbocharged gas I-4 engine to deliver up to 49 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and 21 miles of electric-only driving range. These plug-in hybrid specs likely are as foreign to the off-roaders and sun-lovers who typically shop Wranglers as the usual Wrangler figures covering ground clearance, breakover angles, and water fording depth are to everyone else.
In theory, plug-in hybrids combine the most useful elements of electric and gas vehicles, offering silent, engine-off motoring for shorter commutes and cross-country travel fueled by readily available gasoline. Their real-world utility depends on customer use. Don’t plug in often? Congratulations, you overspent on what amounts to a regular hybrid with extra battery weight that offsets most if not all of its efficiency gains. The 4xe’s 20 mpg combined in hybrid mode, for example, is on the low end for the rather thirsty Wrangler lineup.
The 4xe therefore is a niche Wrangler in search of the right owner, ideally a Jeep fan with a nagging jealousy of the neighbor’s Tesla but who isn’t ready to go fully electric. Access to a charger and a commitment to plug in at night, juicing the heavy battery for local use the next day, are musts. (Charging takes about 12 hours on a 110-volt wall outlet, or just two with 240 volts.) Most people drive fewer than 40 miles per day, half of which the 4xe could cover without using a drop of fuel. Unlike in a Tesla or other full EV, “Range anxiety” won’t ever cross the 4xe buyer’s mind. The gas engine is there as backup. For the full story, check out this article from Motor Trend.