The Electric Wrangler Magneto’s Manual Gearbox Is What EVs Really Need Right Now

For this year’s Easter Safari event, Jeep has unveiled several awesome concepts, including the all-electric Wrangler Magneto. While it won’t blow people’s minds with the technologies it utilizes, the fact that it features a manual gearbox is a breath of fresh air for the often-dull experience of driving an electric vehicle.
 Jeep Wrangler Magneto Concept 7 photos
Photo: Jeep
Jeep Wrangler Magneto ConceptJeep Wrangler Magneto ConceptJeep Wrangler Magneto ConceptJeep Wrangler Magneto ConceptJeep Wrangler Magneto ConceptJeep Wrangler Magneto Concept
Manual transmissions have been on a path to extinction for decades since the benefits of automatic ones are unquestionable. Even die-hard gearheads have embraced them because they make daily driving in congested traffic easier while also improving track performance.

The concept was simplified even further in modern EVs, which use less mechanically-complex components to manipulate torque. In some cases, the two-pedal driving style pioneered by automatic gearboxes has been reduced to one.

However, there are still many among us who prefer using a conventional manual gearbox, and they argue that mastering the fine art of using three pedals and a shifter is an incomparable experience.

So, they stubbornly refuse to embrace EVs or end up compromising by buying one for their daily commute but ditch it on weekends for their ICE-powered, manual gearbox-operated toys.

Jeep Wrangler Magneto Concept
Photo: Jeep
But what if they could have the best of both worlds? That seems to be the question Jeep engineers sought to answer with the Magneto concept.

Based on a two-door 2020 Wrangler Rubicon, it uses a powertrain that combines a custom-built 285-hp electric motor that operates up to 6,000 rpm with a good ol’ six-speed manual transmission.

According to the official press release, the gearbox works exactly how you would expect, meaning that a clutch pedal has to be pressed to shift gears.

That is something that we often see on EV conversion projects where older cars have their ICE replaced with an electric motor but retain their original transmission, which is adapted to work with the new e-motor.

Jeep Wrangler Magneto Concept
Photo: Jeep
Although manual transmission fanatics like myself would love to see more manufacturers offer this option on their future EVs, the chances of that ever happening are slim, to say the least.

First of all, it is a question of appeal since not many people would buy a manual EV. Secondly, it would increase the development and manufacturing costs of such vehicles.

The third reason we’re unlikely to see such powertrains anytime soon has to do with the current EV chassis developed to maximize interior space and make room for battery packs.

As I mentioned earlier, the Magneto concept is built on a 2020 Wrangler chassis developed for ICE powertrains, so the room for the transmission was already available, and Jeep engineers only had to distribute the battery packs to other areas of the vehicle.

One pack replaces the fuel tank, another is mounted opposite to it, the third pack sits under the hood, atop the motor, while the fourth pack is placed in the space normally used for the rear storage compartment, also occupying the space where the exhaust muffler used to be fitted.

Jeep Wrangler Magneto Concept
Photo: Jeep
That's hello manual transmission but goodbye storage compartment. It is a compromise worth making in a concept vehicle but it’s obviously not feasible for a mass-produced EV.

There’s also a question about range, a major selling point for these vehicles. Jeep revealed that the concept uses a powerful 800-volt architecture, yet the company hasn’t released any details about the estimated range.

I’m willing to bet that Jeep made a huge compromise in terms of capacity (and thus range) to fit the transmission and the battery packs.

As we can see, the odds are stacked against manual-electric powertrains such as the one on Jeep’s innovative concept, but we can remain optimistic about it.

EVs were considered unfeasible a few decades ago, and now the whole industry rushes to build them. Maybe our prayers will be answered in the future, and manufacturers will bring back the manual to prevent owners from dying of boredom in their self-driving vehicles.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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