– By Gerard Norsa –
Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV, a plug-in rechargeable hybrid SUV, provides an insight to the evolutionary path we can expect to see in the development of automotive transport in the future.
It delivers glimpses of the autonomous driving experience that is sure to flourish as R&D accelerates and it also presents a step change for potential solutions to the need for the world to reduce its carbon output.
First and foremost though, this is a great car that delivers an extensive array of safety features as well as fuel economy improvements via a complex engine and drive-train configuration combining electric and combustion.
Though sales volumes have been a little disappointing for Mitsubishi dealers around Australia since it launched, there has been some interest from fleet owners based on the fuel efficiency and reduced carbon footprint.
Finding the Balance
Organisations trying to find a balance between performance, vehicle safety and fuel economy to meet operational needs as well as broader objectives of OH&S compliance and environmental sustainability will be interested in this genre of hybrid.
So long as the price is right because no matter how good a vehicle is philosophically, it still has to make a business case be funded by ever diminishing capital. One significant advantage for the PHEV is that “plug-in” capability.
No additional hardware or infrastructure is required to keep the car fully charged for electric power. Tucked away neatly under the rear storage space is a power chord that plugs directly into the standard Australian trident power socket.
Three hours later and the car is recharged. Similarly, when driving in traditional fuel combustion mode, the generator can be switched on and will charge the car’s batteries whilst driving. It takes three litres of fuel to charge the batteries according to the manufacturer’s claims.
An article published last year by automotive news website Motoring, quoted a Mitsubishi Motors Australia (MMA) spokesperson as saying there had been some interest from fleet owners but when it came down to doing deals, the price of the first version was just outside of the “fleet sweet spot”.
Another news article, however, shows that the PHEV (which stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) has been a huge success for Mitsubishi in Europe with over 100,000 sales, just the fourth plug-in hybrid vehicle to attain such a milestone.
This SUV offers a spacious five seat interior, 1,500kg braked towing capacity, four-wheel drive capability and a starting price of $47,490 (RRP) thus heralding a new era of affordable, mainstream electric cars with configurations that match real life performance and capacity demands of fleet owners in the 21st century.
Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV boasts combined fuel efficiency of just 1.9-litres per 100 kilometres by manufacturer’s claims which is the lowest official ADR fuel consumption figure of any SUV sold in Australia. PHEV’s CO2 emissions are also super low at 44 gm/km.
Its sophisticated plug-in hybrid system combines a 2.0-litre internal combustion petrol engine, generator, power and motor control units, high capacity lithium-ion drive battery and front and rear electric motors.
PHEV’s official electric range is 52km from a fully charged battery although this is significantly reduced under some driving conditions. Battery range is further supplemented by the plug-in hybrid system, which automatically operates in Series and Parallel modes to significantly extend the cruising range as the drive battery charge reaches low levels.
The PHEV has three different modes of operation – EV Drive Mode, Series and Parallel modes. EV Mode refers to PHEV’s all-electric operation where the wheels are driven by the front and rear electric motors using only drive battery power.
In PHEV’s two hybrid modes – Series and Parallel – the 2.0-litre petrol engine is activated to increase power to either the drive battery or directly to the wheels, depending on driving conditions. PHEV’s electric range can also be maximised through the use of regenerative braking.
Mitsubishi has designed PHEV with six regenerative braking settings, which the driver can select using the steering wheel paddles. And when the drive battery is depleted, PHEV can be switched to Battery Charge Mode which uses the petrol engine to generate and store battery power when the vehicle is stationary or driving. Alternatively, Battery Save Mode can be activated to maintain battery charge while driving.
Outlander PHEV Model Line-Up
Mitsubishi launches Outlander PHEV with a model line-up that’s designed to place plug-in hybrid technology firmly within the reach of mainstream SUV buyers. It will be available in two variants – the entry-level PHEV ($47,490) and top-of-the-range Aspire.
Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED tail lamps, satellite navigation, Colour touch screen, hands free Bluetooth®, smart key operation, dual zone climate control, dusk sensing HID headlights, reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
At $52,490, the PHEV Aspire (driven by Fleet Auto News) gains a full array of luxury and technology appointments such as leather interior trim with heated front seats, 6-way power adjustable driver’s seat, electric sliding sunroof, power tailgate with remote operation, chrome detailing, Forward Collision Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control and Wi-Fi based EV remote system via a smart phone App.
Cargo space is uncompromised in the PHEV. It carries up to five passengers in comfort and retains all of the ergonomic and packaging flexibility of a regular Outlander. Boot space is virtually unchanged at 463L, with the under floor position of the lithium-ion battery pack resulting in only a minor difference in cargo capacity.
I found the full combination of modern automotive technologies in the PHEV to be outstanding including its driving information display plus broad array of passive and active, five star ANCAP-rated safety features.
Outlander PHEV has front driver and passenger airbags, side, curtain and knee protection airbags, rear parking sensors, reverse camera, Active Stability Control, Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) body and Hill Start Control. Aspire gains additional active safety features including Forward Collision Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control.
This is a great car to drive and a showpiece of what can be expected from vehicles of the future. All manufacturers are investing heavily in hybrid vehicles and as the technology matures and the prices come down, many of the power and autonomous features in the Outlander PHEV will increasingly become standard in the vehicles of the next decade.
Quick Facts: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Aspire
- The world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV.
- Most fuel efficient SUV in Australia at 1.9L/100km (ADR 81/02).
- Affordable, Capable and Efficient.
- Twin motor 4WD and S-AWC drivetrain performance and the practicality of an SUV.
- 52kms pure electric driving range.
- Selectable battery management, self-charging and battery save modes.
- Three driving modes: EV Drive Mode, Series Hybrid Mode and Parallel Hybrid Mode.
- Six selectable levels of regenerative braking (B0 – B5).
- ECO Mode switch: activates energy-saving climate control function and throttle response.
- Charging times (Approx.): Plug-in 15A 240V AC ~ 5 hours. Self-Charging Mode ~ 40 minutes.
- Power output: Oil-cooled front motor: 60kW/137Nm. Liquid-cooled rear motor: 60kW/196Nm.