CAUGHT: Next-Generation Grand Cherokee PHEV Powertrain Mule:

Could This Prototype Be Hiding The New Hybrid System For The Upcoming Grand Cherokee?

Our spy photographers have caught a very interesting Grand Cherokee prototype running around the campus of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Auburn Hills, Michigan headquarters. The vehicle is a current-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit (WK2), besides the camouflage, something caught our spy photographer’s eye. Underneath the vehicle is a strange box of some type. We believe that this vehicle is a powertrain vehicle testing the upcoming 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV (or Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) technology. 

Jeep® Grand Cherokee Powertrain Mule. (MoparInsiders).

During the company’s Capital Market Day presentation, the company announced that a PHEV of the upcoming next-generation Grand Cherokee and its three-row sibling are in the works. The vehicle will offer a smaller displacement engine like the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 or the upcoming turbocharged inline-6 cylinder engine (codenamed GME-T6) to be the basis of the new powertrain. The system would work similar to the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid system, however, this would be one of the first applications to a rear-wheel-drive unibody-based vehicle from FCA. We do know that the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited will also offer a similar system, but is, of course, is a body-on-frame architecture.

FCA 5-Year Jeep Presentation. (FCA).

According to our sources, the new Grand Cherokee PHEV will be using a version of the new ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic plug-in hybrid transmission. The new transmission has all the functions of a standard 8-speed transmission, but also offers the advantages of the electric drive unit. 

ZF 8-Speed Plug-In Hybrid Transmission Layout. (ZF).

PHEVs combine the range of a combustion engine with a locally emission-free electric drive. ZF has developed a plug-in complete system for this drive configuration that sets a new benchmark in terms of all-electric range and speed compared with existing full-hybrid systems. ZF states that the setup can range up to 50 kilometers (or 31 miles) and can have a top speed of 120 km/h (or 74.5 mph) in all-electric mode.

Thanks to a highly integrated complete system in which the transmission, hybrid module, and power electronics are perfectly matched to each other, the electric motor can be cooled by either water or transmission oil. It also features a separating clutch with low drag loss that decouples the electric drive from the combustion engine, which, in turn, increases the range in electric mode. Only 30 millimeters of additional space is needed for the ZF hybrid transmission, compared to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission.

Jeep® Grand Cherokee Powertrain Mule. (MoparInsiders).

The compact electric motor makes a peak output of 90 kilowatts and 250 Nm (184 ft.-lbs) of torque on the ZF 8HP based transmission. According to ZF, the new hybrid transmissions are also all-wheel-drive compatible as well, making it a perfect fit for the upcoming Jeep Grand Cherokee and its three-row sibling. 

Jeep® Grand Cherokee Powertrain Mule. (MoparInsiders).

There is no doubt that the entire auto industry will be switching to a gas/electric powertrain combination on most vehicles within the next decade. It wouldn’t be a surprise to us if we start seeing more prototypes running around with similar equipment in the very near future.

Jeep® Grand Cherokee Powertrain Mule Image Gallery:

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Mike Volkmann

Michael Volkmann, a mechanical engineer in the steel industry, autocrossed and road-raced Neons. Michael has drag raced his 1971 Duster 340, 2015 Dodge Charger SRT392, 2009 Challenger R/T, and Neons, of which he’s owned seven — one SRT4, three ACRs, and three Sport Coupes.

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