Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has started preparing its vehicle assembly plant in Melfi, Italy to produce a forthcoming Jeep Renegade plug-in-hybrid model. The Jeep Renegade PHEV will be one of 14 electrified models slated to come out of FCA’s rugged Jeep brand by 2022, stemming from a $10.5-billion investment FCA has lined up to expand its range of hybrid and battery-electric products. Another 16 electrified models will be released by other Fiat Chrysler brands by the same year.
The Jeep Renegade PHEV will be a particularly important product in Europe, where FCA has resolved to phase out diesel engines in its passenger cars by 2021. Like Volkswagen, FCA, too, has been accused of using “cheat devices” to pass diesel emissions testing, even while its diesel-powered vehicles allegedly failed to meet emissions requirements during normal, daily use. With diesel no longer an option as Fiat Chrysler works to meet ever-stricter emissions and efficiency targets around the globe, electrification will serve a purpose of crucial importance.
The forthcoming Jeep Renegade PHEV is expected to arrive on the market early in 2020, likely as a 2021-model-year vehicle. During FCA’s 2018 Capital Markets Day presentation in June, one slide in the presentation indicated that the AWD Renegade plug-in will feature two electric motors: one that provides supplementary torque through the engine’s belted accessory drive system, and one that will replace the AWD CUV’s mechanical rear axle. Thus, the model might have no need for a driveshaft running to the rear of the car, and no bulky, heavy rear differential to contribute parasitic loss even in FWD mode.
The Jeep Renegade PHEV’s hybrid system will be deployed in a further five models by 2022, but the automaker has not revealed what those other products might look like. A similar system will be used in a plug-in-hybrid version of the Jeep Wrangler set to launch later in 2020, using the same sort of belted motor/generator as the Renegade, but coupled with an electric motor attached to the transmission’s primary input shaft.
FCA’s preparations to the Melfi, Italy assembly plant will cost more than €200 million ($230 million USD).