Driving Jeep Magneto, electric concept with manual transmission

The Magneto 2.0 is a modified Jeep Wrangler with an EV powertrain.
Zoom / The Magneto 2.0 is a modified Jeep Wrangler with an EV powertrain.

Jim Resnick

Moab, Utah – First things first: This innovative battery-powered, electric Jeep downhill climbs isn’t destined for production, despite the hopes of many Jeep fans assembled in Moab, Utah, for this year’s Jeep Easter Safari. Magneto is an open or life-size lab that has Jeep in mind and the future of the brand.

The company is already beginning to embrace the future of battery-electric propulsion, and in fact, the Wrangler 4xe is America’s best-selling hybrid. In fact, Jeep showed its first iteration of the Magneto last year, despite a simple 285 hp (213 kW) engine. Jeep quickly woke up to a variety of uses and iterations of battery electric power to such an extent that five of the seven concept vehicles it recently showed to the press and the public use electric propulsion. And the pinnacle of all this is Magneto 2.0. We led it.

The Magneto began its life as a regular Wrangler, but Jeep lengthened the wheelbase by 12 inches (305 mm) and put huge 40-inch-high tires mounted on 20-inch wheels. Huge differentials backed by heavily reinforced suspension live underneath, while a bounced bikini top and ’60s SoCal custom paint system keep the visuals fun.

Magneto starts from a button, as with any electrician. From the passenger seat, Jim Morrison, senior vice president of Jeep and president of Jeep North America, suggests using both the brake and clutch when starting should this happen. A large manual transmission ol’ cue-ball sits between the seats, next to the transfer case selector familiar to 2WD and all-wheel drive low and high range. Because the manual transmission is redundant, you pick a proper gear for the road ahead – or no road ahead – and step away from comfort and flip to the throttle as is the norm in a traditional BEV. With a subdued EV sound and plenty of dialed steering angle, the slight slip and tire chirp at the working end of the locked axles made for a mix of two separate sounds rarely heard before.

Yes, that's a six-speed manual that you see ahead of you.
Zoom / Yes, that’s a six-speed manual that you see ahead of you.


For off-road driving, traction and cruise control are better in lower gears, and that’s the essence of this powertrain combination. For a pure road BEV, a manual gearbox behind an electric motor would be, for all intents and purposes, rather silly. There is not much upside to that equation. But in an off-road environment where creep is critical, whether it’s over rocks, through mud, or anywhere else that requires extremely precise control akin to variable power and throttle, gear reduction and cruise control are critical, no matter what. Payment type . It’s also a way to provide greater control on steep hills with less traction. In fact, Jeep has programmed engine regeneration to the point where it requires a cracked throttle to get off hills, even steep ones. This is a neat engineering solution to the whole issue of slope control when applied to ICE powered off-road using throttle and brake intervention.

Magneto dispenses with the grades, ramps, and obstacles of a Jeep controlled off-road track in the Moab Desert with just one glitch. The transfer case went out of gear twice, cutting the power delivery twice, which wasn’t a fault of the electric powertrain, not even the manual transmission.

Given the basic specs of the Magneto, there is an axial flow electric motor (carrying the capacitor) that spins up to 5250 rpm. Four sets of lithium-ion batteries generating a total of 70 kWh (running at 800 volts) are located in the middle and rear of the vehicle to distribute the weight as evenly as possible within the truck’s overall package. Also, an inverter borrowed from hybrid racing cars converts DC power to AC power for the new engine. A 600-amp peak for up to 10 seconds helps enable an output of 850 lb-ft (1,152 Nm) of torque and sprint from 0-60 on the tarmac in just 2.0 seconds.

While Magneto will never see production, it is opening up two whole new off-road ideas. First, the manual transmission as a gear multiplier behind the electric motor. Second – and even greater announcement – the potential for silence from off-road driving.