Jeep sidesteps EVs with ICE off-road concepts, points to PHEVs

At its annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, Stellantis’ Jeep brand has presented four new concept off-roaders. And this year, unlike other recent years, all of them were gasoline-fueled. 

Among them, the lone plug-in concept among them was the Jeep Wrangler 4xe Willys Dispatcher plug-in hybrid concept that, according to the brand, provides “a mix of where the Jeep brand’s been and where it’s going.” It combines the modern 4xe plug-in hybrid’s powertrain with “a throwback design theme that honors early post-war civilian Jeep SUVs,” according to Jeep.

Jeep Willys Dispatcher concept

Jeep Willys Dispatcher concept

Jeep Willys Dispatcher concept

Plug-in hybrid goes vintage

The Dispatcher wears vintage-look, cream-colored 16-by-7.0-inch “steelies” with Super Traxion 36-inch tires, plus an old-style bumper with a new Warn winch and Warn Epic Series winch hook, and an onboard air compressor. It’s painted a custom green shade, while the windshield header is gloss-black and Willys is embossed on the hood. Distressed saddle-leather upholstery and houndstooth cloth inserts add more to the vintage look, and in this concept Jeep has removed the headrests for a low-back throwback. 

Jeep Willys Dispatcher concept

Powertrain specs appear to be unchanged from the Wrangler 4xe, which has for several years been the top-selling U.S.-market plug-in hybrid. That means the same combined output of 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. An electric motor can be clutched in with or without the 3.6-liter V-6 engine to the 8-speed automatic transmission, providing up to 22 electric miles. The 17.3-kwh battery pack saves some of its capacity for hybrid operation but charges to full in as little as two hours. 

Jeep Willys Dispatcher concept

Jeep Willys Dispatcher concept

Fully electric Recon, Magneto notably absent from debuts

The heritage off-road look for the Dispatcher is nothing unexpected for Jeep. Although the 4xe isn’t the most hardcore off-roader in the lineup it’s been vouching for its trail credentials since the start—including a lift kit for the 4xe, bringing two inches of lift plus Fox shocks and all the requisite upgrades.

What is a bit unexpected is the lack of mention of EVs, especially considering that Jeep plans a lineup of fully electric vehicles by 2025—in a global context. 

Jeep Willys Dispatcher concept

Jeep Willys Dispatcher concept

Jeep Willys Dispatcher concept

Over the past three years the brand has used the spring event as a platform for exploring that shift toward an electric lineup. It started with a reveal of the fully electric Wrangler Magneto concept in 2021, appearing as a work-in-progress conversion of the Wrangler, including an 800-volt battery layout, separated into banks, plus an intact manual gearbox. Then came an updated Magneto concept in 2022, bringing a much more powerful axial-flux motor and a max-regen mode good for one-pedal driving. And in 2023, a Jeep Magneto 3.0 EV concept got an even higher output while improving efficiency and usable range (still not disclosed) with a one-pedal hill-descent mode. 

Jeep Recon

All the while, those concepts included the extreme proportions, short overhangs, and wide door openings of the Wrangler. Those are all attributes expected to follow in the upcoming fully electric “brother” to the Wrangler, the Recon, which is set to arrive in 2025.

Does that still mean multiple electric Jeeps will be trekking to Moab in the future? Next year’s event, and Jeep’s sideline comments from this event, may provide some more insight.