Although it isn't the world's first electric Jeep (DJ-5e, anyone?), the 2010 Jeep Wrangler EV, given a new coat of paint for the 2009 Detroit auto show, is a bit more advanced.
For the most part, automakers working on extended-range electric vehicles (EERVs) are crafting them out of small, fuel-efficient compact cars. Bucking that trend, Chrysler's demonstrated their technology with both a minivan and the Wrangler - a body-on-frame SUV. Granted, this Jeep is only a two-wheel-drive model, but if Chrysler's figures hold true, the fuel economy gains are quite impressive.
As with most EERVs, the Wrangler Unlimited EV runs as an electric vehicle so long as its lithium-ion batteries hold a charge. Chrysler claims they'll power the 200-kW (268 hp) electric motor up to 40 miles, before a small gasoline engine kicks in. The internal-combustion engine doesn't physically drive the rear wheels, but acts as a generator and feeds electricity to both the battery and the electric motor. In total, Chrysler says the combination of battery and generator power is enough to travel 400 miles on a ten-gallon tank of fuel.
A downside? We think Jeep fans would prefer a four-wheel-drive Wrangler, and though Chrysler's ENVI group says it's working on one - complete with in-wheel electric motors up front - it's still a ways away from reality. A Wrangler like this, however, could feasibly reach production between 2010 and 2013.
To read more about the 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV, go to our 2009 Detroit auto show blogs coverage. All the latest blogs from the Editors of Automobile Magazine can be found HERE. We've got our whole staff wandering the floor at Cobo Hall bringing back live photos and more information about all the new debuts from Detroit.
For complete coverage of the 2009 Detroit auto show, click HERE.