Jeep's trailhead chargers support electrified off-roading
Instant torque, zero tailpipe emissions, no engine noise – there are a lot of reasons to like the idea of adding more battery power to off-roading. But there's also one big question mark: How do you charge when you're traveling tens or hundreds of miles off-road, possibly jumping off from a remote base town that has little infrastructure. Jeep has addressed the question by growing its 4xe family with a new network of off-road-targeted charging stations, planning installations at trailheads and base towns near its Badge of Honor Trails.
Jeep previously mentioned its trailhead charging network plans, but it revealed more details at the 2021 Easter Jeep Safari that officially kicked off on Sunday. Moab, Utah, the host of the annual Safari event and 10 of the 62 Jeep Badge of Honor trails, will welcome one of the first 4xe charging stations scheduled to open in the coming weeks. Along with Moab, the initial round of stations will include Big Bear and the Rubicon Trail, both in California.
Jeep is working with Electrify America in deploying the 240-V Level 2 charger network. Depending upon location, the chargers will be connected directly to the grid or powered by solar panels. Wrangler 4xe owners will be able to unlock free charging at the Jeep stations using a custom version of Electrify America's mobile app.
The Level 2 chargers will fully charge the Wrangler 4xe's modestly sized 17-kWh battery pack in roughly two hours. That battery recently earned the Wrangler 4xe an EPA estimate of 21 miles (34 km) of all-electric range, short of Jeep's own 25-mile (40-km) estimate. Whether we're talking 25 or 21, that's a small amount of mileage for two hours of sitting anxiously at or near the trailhead. Jeep concedes it'll be faster (i.e. better) just to use the chargers as a top-off before heading out onto the trail.
A Level 3 charger network would have more potential as a trailside amenity, allowing the charging of full-blown electric trucks and 4x4s in less time than it takes to pump 21 miles into a Wrangler plug-in hybrid. However, Jeep has no incentive to pursue such a network given that the Wrangler 4xe only supports Level 1 and 2 charging and an all-electric Wrangler is merely a show car fantasy at present. Therefore, Level 3 charging would be of no use to current Jeep owners.
A trailside Level 3 charger is an enticing idea for owners of all-electric trucks, SUVs and ATVs, though. Rivian's fast chargers are capable of dropping 140 miles (225 km) into its all-electric trucks in about 20 minutes, meaning drivers could power up for hours' worth of off-road adventure in about the time it takes to wash down a breakfast burrito with a cup of coffee. That's the type of charging that could start to make electric off-roading look more attractive.
Rivian's recent "Adventure Network" announcement focused on highway and primary road charging station locations and did not specify trailside chargers, but it was careful to mention "remote destinations," as well as outdoorsy places like national parks and mountain ranges. A look at Rivian's map of planned locations shows that it does plan chargers in and around popular US outdoor and off-roading destinations.
Back to the Jeep 4xe family ... the "most capable, technically advanced and eco-friendly Wrangler ever built," is available starting at US$49,490 for the Sahara trim and $53,190 for the Rubicon. Those Wrangler 4xe prices include destination charge but do not take into account the available $7,500 US federal tax credit or state or local government incentives.
Jeep plans to announce additional 4xe trail charging locations in the future, deploying the full network over the course of the next year.