The Jeep CJ Surge Concept May Have the Off-Road EV Crate Motor We’ve Been Waiting For

Electric crate motors have been done before but Jeep wants to make them viable for classic off-roaders, like CJ Wranglers.

byNico DeMattia|
Electric Vehicles photo

Jeep is bringing an electric restomod kit to the 2022 SEMA auto show in November, to showcase what the future of off-roading retrofit kits might look like. The Jeep CJ Surge Concept is a classic Wrangler (it looks like a CJ6) that's been heavily modified, with an electric powertrain swap and an extensive visual overhaul. This could be the future of off-road retromods.

The big news is under the hood. Jeep threw out the old inline-six and stuffed in what is essentially an electric crate motor. It's a 400-volt, 200 kW (268 horsepower) electric drive module, which sends its power through a two-speed transfer case to all four wheels. To give that electric powertrain some juice, the CJ Surge Concept has 24 lithium-ion batteries under the rear passenger floor, enclosed in a custom shell. Older Jeeps will always be limited to the amount of space in which they can fit batteries, so range will always be limited, but this powertrain provides about the same amount of power as a brand-new V6 Wrangler, with none of the emissions.

To make sure the CJ Surge Concept can off-road like a proper Wrangler should, it was given a set of 18x9-inch wheels wrapped in 35-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, Dana 44 Crate axles from Jeep Performance Parts (JPP), and a two-inch lift kit. Adding to its JPP list are a Wrangler JK Rubicon bumper kit, a JPP Wrangler Warn winch, Rubicon skid plates and rock rails, and amber LED fog lights.

It wouldn't be a SEMA car if it didn't look wild, too. Jeep painted the CJ Surge in a metallic orange "Copper Caynon" paint, with black and Surf Blue accents. Inside, the Jeep CJ Surge gets custom cloth seats, with houndstooth fabric, a custom steering wheel, Mopar instrument dials with charge and battery life gauges, and even a modern Jeep rotary shift dial.

Typically SEMA cars are just exercises in exuberance but the Jeep CJ Surge actually offers an interesting idea. Giving customers an electric crate motor will allow owners of older Jeeps to swap their engines for electric powertrains. Not only would that provide more torque and the potential for more horsepower, it would also provide an emissions-free powertrain. Plus, I kind of like the idea of rolling around in a silent Wrangler with the doors off and top down.

Jeep isn't the first brand to propose such an idea, though. Chevy also created its own electric restomod, with a K5 Blazer back in 2020. However, Jeep's CJ Surge is more off-road focused than that and seems to want to prove that electrification is possible even in older, more rugged cars like the Wrangler.

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