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April 2009 4x4 Truck & Automotive News - Drivelines

Electric Jeep Side
Drew Hardin
| Contributor
Posted April 1, 2009

We Drive The Electric Jeep

We Drive The Electric Jeep
Late last year we spent some time in Jeep's electric vehicle (EV) prototype while it was in Los Angeles for the annual Auto Show. To be honest, the drive was something of a letdown-no dirt, just around cones in a parking lot.

But the EV's potential is worth getting excited about. The engineers from Chrysler's ENVI group, which is leading the EV's development, were frank about their project. Right now it's a "Gen I" prototype, basically an electrified version of an existing platform, since that's the easiest to execute. As R&D progresses, the Jeep and its driveline will evolve well beyond the unit we drove.

Gen I EV Jeep has a big hole under the hood. Gen II will have a range-extending engine in here.

For example, while the prototype Jeep is RWD and electric only, the plan is to place an electric motor at each wheel for absolute control of acceleration and braking at each corner. The Jeep is also slated to have an internal combustion engine onboard to augment the electric driveline when it needs more power or to extend the lithium-ion battery's 40-mile range. Think of the engine as an onboard generator. It will not drive the wheels but will deliver energy to the power unit that does. The wheel motors will be rugged enough-and sealed up-to withstand off-road abuse, including stream fordings. Chrysler wants to deliver "no-compromise performance" in its electrically powered Jeep.

What's an electric Jeep like to drive? Quiet. There's no engine rumble when you turn the key, just a series of lights winking on in the dash. The transmission is engaged via a series of buttons under what would normally be a nav screen. Push a button for Drive, release the e-brake, step on the pedal, and go. The prototype has just one speed so there are no gears to shift. And with 295 lb-ft of torque on tap from the 200kW motor, acceleration is brisk.

The ENVI engineers hope to build a Gen II Jeep, with wheel motors, in time for next year's auto show season. Eventually, ENVI wants an electric driveline to be an option for every Chrysler vehicle. Of course, Chrysler-along with the entire domestic auto industry-has to survive long enough to produce these advanced vehicles. But we were told that EV development is a "top priority" at Chrysler, and that current economic conditions are not affecting the program.


Hummer Wins Baja
Never mind that the brand is up for sale; the Hall family keeps winning desert races in their Hummers. Chad Hall, wheeling the H3 Alpha seen here, was the first Stock Class vehicle to finish this year's Baja 1000. It clinched not just a Stock Full Class victory for Chad but also a season championship in the class, his first. Chad's dad, Rod Hall, finished Second in the Stock Mini Class in his H3, which also garnered him a class championship.

Win a Jeep for $2
You could own a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited decked out with 35-inch BFGs, an Atlas II transfer case, and more goodies for just two bucks. That's the cost of a ticket for the California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs' Jeep raffle, held in conjunction with the association's 50th annual convention in Primm, Nevada. Other equipment on this '08 Jeep includes a Fabtech lift, a Warn 9500 winch on a Hanson bumper, a K&N intake, Banks Power exhaust, a Body Armor rear bumper, a Tuffy Security console and rear slide-out, PIAA and Warn lights, and an Off Road Unlimited roof rack. The Jeep will be raffled Feb. 14. Tickets are available by calling 800.4X4.FUNN or logging on to www.cal4wheel.com.

Wyotech builds rock racer for parapalegic
The motorcycle accident that left Clay Egan wheelchair-bound 10 years ago hasn't slowed him down. The racecar driver and motivational speaker recently collaborated with students at WyoTech campuses in California and Wyoming on the construction of a rock buggy for him to drive in UROC and XRRA events. Students in the Motorsports Chassis Fabrication specialty program at WyoTech's Sacramento, California, campus fabricated the buggy frame. Then it was shipped to the school's Laramie campus, where the 550hp LS2 engine, Hughes racing transmission, Atlas II transfer case, and TeraFlex axles were installed. The Laramie students also built the specialized controls Clay needs to drive the buggy. In all, students spent some 2,400 hours fabricating the rock buggy.

Jeep J8 Production Begins
OK, Jeep collectors, start calling in your favors. The Arab American Vehicles Company in Cairo, Egypt, has begun production of the Jeep J8 multipurpose vehicle. Available in two- and four-door versions and in left- or righthand drive, the J8 marks Jeep's return to commercial and military vehicle production. Based on the Wrangler Unlimited, the J8 is powered by a 2.8L, four-cylinder turbodiesel mated with a five-speed automatic transmission and Command-Trac 4WD system. Its frame, axles, brakes, and suspension have been upfitted for military use and give the J8 a payload capacity of nearly 3,000 pounds.

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