I awoke to find my new Jeep Wrangler 4xe (“four by ‘E’”) filled with rubber ducks. It was Father’s Day, and my wife and two young daughters decided to officially initiate me into the community of Jeep owners. I got “ducked.”
Since I bought my Wrangler in May, I’ve been the recipient of this special Jeep “hello” on several occasions. But Jeep ducking isn’t even the best part of owning my Wrangler 4xe. As the first electrified open-air SUV, my Jeep is beautiful, it’s rugged, it saves me money, and it’s great for the environment. Plus, it’s fun! This is my favorite car ever, and I’ve been blessed to own a lot of great cars in my life.
As the CEO of Future Energy, I wanted to buy an electric vehicle (EV). Future Energy’s mission is to help businesses transform to electrification, and I thought it was important to experience what our clients’ customers go through. In fact, we now give a stipend to Future Energy employees so they can drive an EV to understand the experience.
At Future Energy, we pay attention to EV adoption rates. EV sales in 2021 were up 64% from the previous year in my home state of Michigan, and I started seeing EVs more and more. I knew I didn’t want a sedan, though. I was looking for something rugged that would fit my lifestyle. I spend my weekends out on the trails: hiking, biking or running.
As a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), the Wrangler 4xe has a 17kWh battery that delivers around 25 miles of all-electric range. Basically, Jeep took the original look and feel of the iconic Rubicon and converted it to a hybrid. Just what I wanted!
Plus, under the federal tax credit and rebate program, I got a federal tax credit of $7,500, which the dealer took directly off the invoice.
Good Looks and Performance
Electric Jeeps have bright blue accents—that’s how you can pick them out on the road. Appropriately enough, they call the color “electric blue.” That eye-popping Rubicon logo gets a lot of attention. Even the tow hooks have electric blue accents. I can’t tell you how many times I hear: “It doesn’t look like an electric car!”
I drove with the top and doors off for most of the summer. Behind the wheel, I can choose from three different modes. The default mode – hybrid – combines torque from the turbocharged engine and the electric motor. It uses the battery first, and you should see this thing accelerate. It’s got 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of instant torque. It’s the industry’s first PHEV with front and rear locking differentials, which is great for traction when I’m off-roading.
Despite all that power, it goes silent when I want it to. I like to drive to the trail using e-save mode, which prioritizes the engine to save the charge. Then I switch over to the battery, and it’s so quiet that it’s easy to get absorbed in nature. In fact, the other day we suddenly came upon two big bucks on the trail, and they didn’t even hear me driving up.
Electric mode is not only silent, it also cuts emissions in half compared to a traditional engine. That’s why electric mode is my mode of choice for everyday driving, including my 12-mile commute to work.
Nowadays, I fill my tank only about once a month. I figure I’ve saved about two-thirds of what I had been spending on gas.
Many people come up to me and want to talk about the car. The biggest question I get: Where…and how…do you plug it in?
The Wrangler 4xe comes with a level 1 charger. Level 1 chargers plug directly into a standard 110-volt outlet, kind of like charging a cell phone by plugging it into the wall. It’s the slowest kind of EV charging, taking about 14 hours to fully charge my Jeep.
I knew right away we were going to want to install a level 2 charger in the garage. Level 2 chargers operate at 240 volts, so I would be able to charge fully in about two and a half hours. Level 2 chargers are the most prevalent in the US, also found commonly at shopping centers or in parking lots.
Upgrading Our Electric
As it turns out, we didn’t have enough amps in our panel and needed to upgrade our electrical infrastructure. The one-time expense cost roughly $5,000. Part of that is because we decided to go all in. My wife is looking to buy an EV in about 18 months, and we wanted to future-proof our charging situation. No need to wrestle over the car charger as we do over our cell phone chargers on the kitchen counter.
Another part of the expense was the installation of an additional meter dedicated to EV charging so that we qualify for our local utility’s EV plan. DTE’s Charging Forward program offers a $500 level 2 charging rebate that includes three time-of-use pricing options. We chose the one that requires a dedicated meter. We get a 54% discount to charge at off-peak times between 11:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m.
Finding Chargers on the Road
To find chargers while I’m traveling, I downloaded a bunch of apps that help locate public charging stations. That especially helped en route to my family’s summer vacation.
Jeeps come with an app called Uconnect, which is also built into all Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, and FIAT vehicles.
The app includes entertainment and navigation features, shows the car’s charging state, and even sends me an alert when the battery is fully charged. It offers other diagnostics as well, like showing how many miles I’ve driven using the battery or the gas engine.
Since we became EV drivers, my wife and I have had a bit of a learning curve. For the next generation though, driving an electric car comes naturally. It’s fun to see the kids in the neighborhood driving their toy electric ride-on vehicles. They just plug them in when the battery runs out—the most natural thing in the world. The other day, one little girl saw me and exclaimed, “That’s Mr. DiNello! He drives an electric car!”
The kids like to go for rides in our 4xe and our daughters proudly show their friends how to plug it in. I suppose it was inevitable the girls would embrace electrification. A decade away from their own driver’s licenses, they’re already charged up about the future. After all, we named them Estella and Vivienne. I guess we had the foresight to know what EV would mean for years to come.
Posted By Sam DiNello
Sam DiNello is Chief Executive Officer at Future Energy. He is an expert in the EV infrastructure space and passionate about innovative data-driven solutions that help companies access real-time intelligence for real-time action.