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April 2009 4x4 Truck & Automotive News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on April 1, 2009
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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

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.

Raptor R Tackles Baja
The highly anticipated Ford F-150 Raptor (page 72) showed up at the 41st annual SCORE Baja 1000 alongside a nicely modified race version dubbed the Raptor R. Though Ford was hoping to enter the R into the Stock Full Class, the minimum production requirements sent this preproduction R into Class 8. Powered by a slightly modified 6.2L V-8 mated to a new six-speed transmission, the Raptor R entered the grueling race as a means for Ford to gather more notes for its extensive and ongoing R&D. A team of expert drivers (Greg Foutz, Steve Olliges, Randy Merritt, Gene Martindale, and Bud Brutsman) managed a Third Place finish, remarkable for a truck Ford hoped would merely survive the race. Congratulations to Ford! Read more on the Raptor in this issue (page 72) and in future issues. -Ali Mansour

Club Spotlight
Friends of the High Lakes
Friends of the High Lakes (FOHL) is a grass-roots organization with the goal of preserving the natural resources of Lassen National Forest [in northeastern California] for the public instead of from the public. I wanted to tell you about one of our most active members, Braden Dent. He was proud of his customized '87 4Runner and cared deeply about our local four-wheeling areas. When Braden learned that some of those areas were threatened with closure, he decided to get involved and spread the word of FOHL. He educated his fellow four-wheelers about how they could become more environmentally responsible. He volunteered as trail patrol and spent weekends cruising the trails and picking up trash. He led by example, inspiring those around him to be responsible four-wheelers and to live in the kind and generous spirit that he did.

At the young age of 22, Braden was killed in an industrial accident. Still, I feel Braden's message can continue to inspire others in the same way he inspired me. My hope is that by sharing his story with the magazine he read avidly, other readers can not only appreciate his work, but also learn from all that he had to teach. Friends of the High Lakes continues to grow and has a great website at Braden would have been thrilled to see the organization that he believed in gain recognition in your magazine.
-Aleece Hazlitt

California association of four wheel drive clubs celebrates 50 years
In 1959 Fidel Castro became prime minister of Cuba, Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the U.S., rock 'n' roll was heating up the airwaves, and the California Association of Jeep Clubs was formed in April in the town of Tulare. Steve Morris, a member of the Sacramento Jeepers, was elected first president of the Jeep Association, which in 1962 officially became the California Association of Four-Wheel Drive Clubs.

The association began small but was well organized right from the start, said Morris. "With the U.S. Forest Service threatening to close our forests to motorized travel, we knew immediately that we needed a strong organization with statewide clout." (Sound familiar?) Right away, the association established rules for backcountry driving to make as little impact as possible. In the early '60s it began an education program to prevent trailside littering. The '60s also saw the birth of many events that continue today, including the Tierra del Sol Desert Safari and the Sierra Trek.

Today, the Association is made up of more than 3,600 members in 160 clubs and is very active in recreational four-wheel-drive issues. In fact, it has served as a model for other organizations in other states and even other countries. You can learn more about the CAFWDC and its long, storied history at its website,
-Jack Raudy

This Just In
* More Baja 1000 News: Rod Hall's record 20th class win at the 1000 was denied when Gavin Skilton's Honda Ridgeline overcame a flat tire and broken rear axle to win the Stock Mini Class.

* General Tire-sponsored racers notched two class wins in Baja. Marc Burnett, driving solo in his Ford Ranger, won Class 6, and Cisco Bio won in Class 9, driving the same car in which he won the class back in 1998.

* More signs of desperate times: A Dodge dealer in the Chicagoland area offered quite a deal in November: "Buy a car, truck, or minivan and get a second vehicle for $1!" The $1 cars were "slightly used" vehicles, but still...

Earth Watch
* Pearse Umlauf, whom many of you know through Jeep Jamboree USA, has launched an organization called the National Off-Road Association (NORA). "NORA will bring together responsible OHV enthusiasts to be a unified voice, to learn about important issues, and to strengthen the nationwide family of off-roaders so that they can affect change," Pearse said. NORA will be many things: an information-sharing source for members to keep up to date on trail closures and other issues; a lobbying group for the off-highway hobby and industry; and an initiator of studies about the industry, to learn exactly the impact our hobby has on the environment and the economy. Interested in becoming a member? Visit for more info.

* The BlueRibbon Coalition has launched a website and online auction in celebration of the Champions of ISDT/E. The site offers memorabilia from the Six-Day Trials, and funds from the auctions will go toward BlueRibbon's efforts to promote and protect off-highway recreation. Log on to for more info.

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