At this year’s Super Bowl, Jeep promised a “Road Ahead,” a piece of highway it’s already started navigating with products like its 4xe hybrid models. Speeding a few exits forward down that highway, Jeep today presents its first all-electric vehicle, the Wrangler Magneto concept. Powered by a combination of 275-hp electric motor, four battery packs and a six-speed manual transmission, the Rubicon-grade e-Wrangler is designed to support the off-road experience Jeep enthusiasts have come to love, while cutting the noise and tailpipe pollution that no one loves. It’s the clear headliner of this year’s Easter Jeep Safari concept lineup.
Jeep began the Magneto build with a 2020 Wrangler Rubicon two-door, swapping the standard Pentastar V6 out with a custom-built axial flux electric motor putting out an identical 285 hp and a touch more torque for 273 lb-ft (370 Nm). Jeep further calibrated the e-motor to closely match the Pentastar’s horsepower and torque benchmarks throughout its 6,000-rpm rev range.
Jeep avoided the temptation to eliminate extra gears, instead keeping the six-speed manual transmission and clutch in place for a unique manual-electric driving experience. To smoothen quick-shifting stretches of driving, the electric motor engages regen upon clutch engagement to prevent rev hang. Jeep says that the Magneto powertrain operates almost identically to the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 variant during low-speed driving but has the advantage of delivering all its 273 lb-ft of torque immediately, when necessary for more spirited acceleration. It estimates a 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h) of 6.8 seconds.
Jeep doesn’t broach the topic of driving range, a touchy subject for a 4×4 that can regularly be seen carrying extra gas in jerry cans in order to safely complete its off-road missions, but it says the Magneto battery setup carries a total of 70 kWh. Jeep distributes the weight of that battery by splitting it into four individual packs. One pack replaces the central fuel tank, while another sits opposite that one. The front battery pack comes mounted over the motor under the hood, and the rear one occupies space usually reserved for the exhaust system and rear storage compartment.
The battery packs and control hardware are enclosed in waterproof housings, maintaining the Wrangler’s 30-in (76-cm) wading depth. Custom mounts secure the batteries tightly enough to survive bumpy off-road conditions, and under-pack skid plates protect against scrapes and bumps.
The Wrangler Magneto has an 800-V electrical architecture and relies on a race-derived inverter to send power from the batteries to the AC motor. It also has a 12-V battery for powering basic electrical equipment like the radio and lighting, and an auxiliary 12-V battery for powering off-road and camping accessories like the included Warn winch. A DC-to-DC converter keeps those 12-V units charged.
The Magneto includes the usual Easter Jeep Safari aftermarket upgrades, like a Jeep Performance Parts 2-in lift kit, custom roll cage, 35-in mud-terrain tires around 17-in wheels, Mopar rock rails and steel bumpers. It wears bright white paint accented by “surf blue” trim, a heavy-duty hood with center scoop and “Magneto” decals, and a full-width front lighting array that connects the headlamps with smaller lights in each of the seven grille slots.
An Easter Jeep Safari concept isn’t typically the preview vessel of choice for fast-turnaround production products (Jeep debuted one Easter Jeep Safari pickup concept after another before finally launching the Gladiator), but it’s still encouraging to see Jeep reaching for its most capable, iconic off-road model in experimenting with electric powertrain technology. Pair an instant-torquing, campground-electrifying e-Wrangler Rubicon with the solar-powered off-road chargers that are also part of Jeep’s “Road Ahead” plans, and you have an intriguing blend of modern electric technology and primitive adventure.
This year’s Easter Jeep Safari runs from March 27 until April 4.