With a new Jeep Wrangler expected out next year and stringent fuel economy standards coming soon, rumors are swirling on what the next-generation Wrangler will look like. A recent idea is the new Wrangler will feature a hybrid powertrain.
What is a Hybrid Powertrain?
For many Jeep fans and owners, the idea of a hybrid powertrain might seem a little foreign. Quite simply, it isn’t brought up that often in the off-roading world. A hybrid may look different depending on the manufacture, but they all boil down to using a battery and a small engine to provide power.
The simple idea behind a hybrid is to use the battery more often than the engine, conserving gas. For most applications, the battery provides most of the power and is used extensively in most driving situations. The engine is only used when the vehicle needs a bit more power (like passing on the highway) or when the battery is dead.
Speaking of dead batteries, the hybrid battery charges while driving through various systems like regenerative brakes which transfer kinetic energy to the battery. It is also charged by plugging it in at night and when the engine runs. However, even with recharging itself, there are times when it can go completely dead after hours of use.
How would a Hybrid Wrangler Work?
The natural question for Wrangler owners and fans is how will such a system work in a Jeep? Besides better fuel economy with the engine not running as often, what else is good about it? Turns out, a hybrid system benefits the Wrangler more than you would think.
“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,” Mike Manley, Jeep Brand President recently told AutoExpress.com.
This is great news for off-road fans since torque and crawl ratios make a difference on the trail. Plus, imagine all the fuel savings it’ll get when driving to the trail head.
Downside of a Hybrid Wrangler
While all the above sounds great, there is one big potential problem – range. A battery provides power for only so much time before it eventually gives out in need of a charge.
“Where you have to be careful with the Wrangler is range,” Manley said. “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.”
What about the engine? It isn’t nearly strong enough to crawl rocks or navigate extreme terrain as the engine is really meant to help you get back to a charging station.
Ultimately, a hybrid Jeep may be just one of many different powertrain options they will offer. Since people use a Wrangler differently, offering a variety may be the best solution. You could see a diesel, hybrid, gasoline and, maybe, even a hydrogen engine in the future. One thing you won’t see is the status quo. Simply put, the Jeep Wrangler must change and a hybrid model is a definite possibility.