Automotive manufacturers roll out innovations
By Terry Troy
Despite the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio’s automotive and automotive component manufacturers continue to innovate, solidifying our state’s position as a leading vehicle manufacturer in the U.S. Last month, FCA’s Toledo Assembly Complex launched production of the 2021 Jeep® Wrangler 4xe plug in hybrid. In the Mahoning Valley, Lordstown Motors has announced that it will partner with RV retailer Camping World on a range of new products that include an all-electric RV. And the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company announced a strategic partnership with SafeAI, an autonomous heavy equipment leader, to incorporate tire intelligence into the programming of autonomous heavy equipment vehicles.
Described by FCA as the “most technologically advanced Wrangler ever,” the new Wrangler 4xe plug in hybrid delivers zero-emission open air driving on- and off-road with up to 25 miles of electric only range and 400 miles of total driving range. Assembly of the Wrangler 4xe, including its 17 kilowatt-hour battery pack and 375-horsepower, 470 lb.-ft. of torque electrified powertrain with two electric motors, is integrated into the existing Wrangler assembly line and built on two shifts by more than 3,200 UAW-represented employees at the Toledo North plant in Ohio.
Wrangler will launch with two models, the Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe. The Wrangler Sahara 4xe model carries a starting U.S. manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $47,995; the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe has a starting U.S. MSRP of $51,695.
“The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe is the greenest, most efficient and capable Wrangler we have created yet,” said Christian Meunier, Global President of Jeep Brand – FCA. “We are committed to making Jeep the greenest SUV brand, and the new Wrangler 4xe is part of that goal, delivering an efficient, eco-friendly and fun-to-drive experience both on- and off-road.”
While still very much on the drawing boards, the new Lordstown Motors electric RV is the result of a new partnership with Camping World that includes the launch of a nationwide service and collision network for Lordstown’s EVs. The two companies are also working on a lithium-ion battery pack for trailers, which would replace gasoline generators. Camping World also plans to launch a Good Sam EV charging network at its locations.
The market for RVs experienced a surge in 2020, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that RVs represented a safe way to travel. Both companies are hoping that the excitement and sales in RVs will continue to climb after the pandemic is over. However, it may take a few years for the two companies to actually develop an eRV, as they call it.
Goodyear’s strategic relationship with SafeAI is all about exchanging site data to protect tire health, eliminate downtime and contribute to a smarter standard for tire safety in construction settings. Tire intelligence from Goodyear’s TPMS Heavy Duty rim-mounted sensors will be deployed at an active construction site in Cupertino, CA. Goodyear will outfit a Caterpillar 725, retrofitted with SafeAI’s autonomous software, to capture pressure and temperature data and monitor overall tire health. These sensors can identify and communicate adverse conditions before they cause maintenance issues and derail a project.
“No matter the vehicle – automobile, freight truck or dump truck – tire intelligence can help elevate safety, performance and efficiency,” said Chris Helsel, Goodyear senior vice president and chief technology officer. “Through our work with SafeAI, we will not only empower site operators with greater visibility and efficiency, but also gain invaluable performance data to inform our future innovation in autonomy and heavy equipment.”