Just because Jeep is going electric, don’t think for a second the brand has given up on letting you explore remote areas.
The American off-road brand’s global chief has revealed plans not only for the first all-electric Jeep models in Australia, but also a goal to introduce solar-powered charging stations in popular off-roading spots around the country.
Speaking to Australian media at the recent Detroit Motor Show, Jeep CEO Christian Meunier, confirmed that the Recon will be its first off-road focused electric model, with plans for more battery electric and plug-in hybrids to follow under its ‘4xe’ branding .
But despite being battery-powered and therefore limited to driving between recharging points, Mr Meuiner has insisted the Recon be ‘Trail Rated’, which means it must meet Jeep’s internal requirements for off-road capability, including completing the demanding Rubicon Trail in the US .
Asked if the ‘Trail Rated’ challenges for electric Jeeps would be less demanding than petrol and diesel-powered models, Mr Meuiner not only ruled that out but said the opposite would be true.
“No, I think it will be even higher for electric because I think we can do even better,” he said.
“Trail rating is going to stay and it’s going to be even more stringent. We’re going to push the limits of what we can do. The Recon is going to be Trail Rated ‘six’ which will make it Rubicon Trail. Wrangler [4xe] is ’10’, so the king remains the king for now and forever.”
While the new vehicles will be off-road capable, taking them to areas to explore their limits will be challenging in Australia due to our vast distances between cities and off-road driving regions.
To combat this, Mr. Meuiner is planning to follow the lead laid down in the US, where Jeep is installing solar-powered charging stations in popular off-road areas.
Currently the company has installed four chargers at trailheads in the US and plans for a further 14, but did not give any indication of numbers or a timeframe in Australia.
“The brief to the engineers has been pretty simple from the beginning, it’s been – Rubicon Trail, you have one day and a half and you have enough juice to get to the next town to charge it,” he explained.
“On top of that we’re working on solar-generated charging stations that we’ll put on the trail.
“We’ll have 18 trails in the US, which will be the ‘Badge of Honor’ trails where you get a badge when you make it and you can stick it on your car. All these trails will be equipped with charging stations and I’m pushing the other regions, including Australia, to do the same. Now that we have all these other products coming in, I’m going to push harder and it’s going to happen.”
While the Recon is the only electric Jeep confirmed so far, Mr Meunier said he is continuing to try and get the Wrangle 4xe into local dealerships because he believes it’s the best the brand has to offer, but admits it’s a difficult proposition.
“With electric, the Wrangler is unbeatable,” he claimed. “You put big tires on it, a lift kit on it, you’re unbeatable.”
He added: “I pushed really hard to get the Wrangler 4xe in Australia and in the UK. The business case was not conclusive, does that mean it’s not going to happen? I don’t know.”
The next-generation Cherokee will include a 4xe model, but it’s unclear at this stage if it will just be an all-electric variant or if a plug-in hybrid will also be offered. Mr Meunier also said he was still considering offering the compact new Avenger in Australia, as it is primarily focused on the European market but has been confirmed for right-hand drive production.