There are other seemingly more likely contenders, such as the Toyota Rav4 Prime, a family-friendly crossover, or the Toyota Prius Prime, designed to be an efficiency champion. But the Wrangler 4xe is the sales leader of plug-in hybrids with a margin the size of a gap.
In the first half of 2022, the Jeep plug-in sold nearly double that of the second most popular plug-in hybrid, the Toyota Rav4 Prime. Toyota reported selling 10,153 of its plug-in hybrid SUV in the first six months of 2022, compared to 19,207 plug-in hybrid quarrelsome. In fact, the Wrangler 4xe alone sold the plug-in hybrid models from Toyota and Lexus (Toyota’s luxury brand) together. This is despite the fact that Toyota, which introduced the hybrid Prius in the US in 2001, is a brand almost synonymous with hybrids.
PHEVs are sort of a cross between hybrid and all-electric vehicles and can behave like both depending on the situation. The Toyota Rav4 is available in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions. The Rav4 Hybrid has batteries that charge as the vehicle moves, both directly from the SUV’s engine and under braking when the spinning wheels are tapped to generate electricity. The relatively small amount of electricity stored in the batteries can be used to power the SUV when not much power is needed, causing the gas engine to shut down from time to time. The Rav4 Hybrid does not have a charging port, however, it cannot be plugged in.
The Rav4 Prime, a PHEV, works the same way, but can also be plugged into a charger, which means allows the more powerful batteries to absorb extra electricity. Fully charged in this way, it can only drive 42 miles on electricity—just like an all-electric car—before the gas engine kicks in and it begins to drive like a hybrid, switching back and forth between the gas engine and the electric motor.
The Wrangler 4Xe’s market dominance may have a lot to do with its sheer availability, said Ivan Drury, an automotive analyst at the website Edmunds.com. Jeep’s parent company, Stellantis, simply produces far more of its plug-in hybrids than Toyota does. One indicator is that the Rav4 Hybrid’s “days-to-turn” — a measure of how long they stay on a dealer lot before being sold — is just 13 days compared to the Wrangler 4Xe’s 20 days. Also, as an off-road-capable plug-in hybrid, the Wrangler 4Xe has no real direct competitors in today’s market, Drury noted.
According to EPA estimates, the Rav4 Prime will save approximately $4,000 more in fuel over 5 years compared to the Rav4 Hybrid. But because of its more powerful batteries, Toyota also flaunts its performance. With its maximum 302 horsepower, compared to 219 in the Hybrid, it is the second fastest accelerating Toyota model sold in the US, according to Toyota, second only to the Supra sports car.
The 4x can run an estimated 21 miles on electricity alone before the gas engine is required to run, according to the EPA. When not running on pure electricity, the 4xe is actually slightly less fuel efficient than some other Jeep models that use “mild hybrid” technology to improve fuel economy. But if we take electric range into account, it’s the most fuel-efficient model in the Jeep range, Morrison said. if it’s plugged in every night, some drivers can go a long way without burning gas, he said.
“I have spoken to many customers who have not used any fuel at all this summer,” he said. “The way they use their Wranglers has allowed them to do it all electrically.”
Leaders from both Toyota and Stellantis have expressed skepticism about automakers going all-electric as a way to combat global warming. They have said it makes more sense to offer customers a range of options, including hybrids and plug-in hybrids, as not all customers can use all-electric vehicles. Both automakers offer, or plan to offer, all-electric models in the future, and some Stellantis brands are expected to go all-electric in the coming years. Morrison wouldn’t say when Jeep would make that switch.