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Mitsubishi's Plug-In Hybrid Outlander Shows Promise
Paul Keown spends a week with Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV electric hybrid but finds its long recharge time, presumably at 220V, and consequent range of around 23 km not sufficient for his needs.
Sunday World 19 Aug 2014
Is there any point to electric vehicles? Are they a real alternative to diesel or petrol cars? Can you really replace the trusty family car with a plug-in machine? That’s the problem – there are still too many questions about electric cars.
A brief run in the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (plug-in electric hybrid vehicle) at the Irish launch recently left me impressed with a hybrid SUV that promised cheaper running costs than petrol or diesel models.
My problem with electric cars, and many share my fear, is that range anxiety sets in, you worry over having enough charge to get you home. What if you needed a little detour, and you find yourself stuck on the side of the road?
Well, the Outlander PHEV dispels any anxiety. Being a plug-in hybrid, the 2.0-litre petrol engine gives you a longer range, allowing you to fill the tank at any petrol station.
Mitsubishi’s new Outlander PHEV is the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV and it offers the best of three worlds: the environmental performance of an electric vehicle (EV), the cruising range of a conventional car, and the on- and off-road performance of an SUV.
The PHEV uses clever technology, with two 60kw electric motors used, one on the front and one on the rear axle, with the help of a 2.0-litre petrol engine that is there mainly to aid the regeneration of the batteries, unless you average speeds of more than 120kph.
There are three modes in the new PHEV. EV Drive Mode is an all-electric mode in which the front and rear motors drive the vehicle using only electricity from the drive battery. With zero on-road petrol consumption and zero CO2 emissions, the driver can enjoy a quiet and very eco-friendly performance.
In Series Hybrid Mode, the petrol engine operates as a generator supplying electricity to the electric motors. The system switches to this mode when the remaining charge in the battery falls below a predetermined level, and when more powerful performance is required, such as accelerating to pass a car or climbing a slope.
Then you have Parallel Hybrid Mode, where the petrol engine provides most of the power, assisted by the electric motors as required. The system switches to this mode for higher-speed driving.
On paper, the Outlander is a winner then. Well, it’s not quite that simple. I spent a week behind the wheel, and even though I really liked the car itself, the electric charging gave me a real shock. My daily commute is around 200kms, with plenty of motorway, so the claimed range of 842km combined would see me avoiding charge points for most of the week.
That figure is a little far-fetched, and my range with a full tank of petrol and 36kms of electric power was closer to 600. This meant I would be charging every few days.
While that’s all well and good, on the occasions I charged it overnight, one evening leaving it to charge for 12 hours, it only managed to reach 36kms, and not the claimed 52km range. On a seven-hour charge, which is the recommended time, it was only charging to around 23kms. So this doesn’t work for me.
Even if you lived in a city, would you really want to charge your car overnight to get a small range on electric alone?
For this technology to work, and make it worthwhile, you’ll need to fit a fast-charge point at your home. ESB is offering to install this for the first 2,000 electric car customers. You can get an 80 per cent charge within half an hour, and this is the most sensible option. A full charge at home will cost around €2-3 on night rate electricity.
Putting all the electric nonsense to one side, the Outlander PHEV is a very good car. It retains the style and robustness of its conventional-powered siblings, and it retains its SUV style, instead of opting for some futuristic look that matches the technology.
The interior has been improved, the cabin is spacious and you don’t lose too much space with the extra batteries and charger. When you drive the Outlander PHEV, you don’t get the same growl from its diesel sibling. It’s very relaxing to drive with little or noise in the cabin, and the torque, which is available right away, makes it move quite rapidly.
Thankfully, the one-speed fixed gear system was very good, and unlike many others, it doesn’t scream as it goes up the revs. Mitsubishi has high hopes
for the Outlander PHEV, being the only plug-in hybrid SUV. It compares favourably to its diesel equivalent with prices starting at €41,950 for the Intense+ model (€2,000 premium over diesel model), rising to €47,450 for the Instyle model which I tested.
The retail price includes the €5,000 SEAI grant and Government VRT relief for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (in place until December 31, 2014). The price is inclusive of batteries, unlike some other models that you have to rent.
There are many good points and some not so goodpoints about the new Outlander PHEV. In essence, I like the Outlander – I’m just not mad about the technology.
My Real World Test Drive of Mitsubishi's Outlander Electric Hybrid SUV
Paul Hudson finds that for his test drive in England, the Outlander PHEV delivered only about 22 miles of electric driving range and a modest average of 33 mpg.
Telegraph/UK 03 Jul 2014
"That's the new plug-in hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander," said a fellow competitor at the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power. "I've got a test drive next week. Doesn't it do 150mpg?"
He winced when I told him what my fuel consumption had been over 500 miles with one recharge. Just over 33mpg.
"Oh well, my journey to work is just over eight miles," he said, "so that's not going to be using any fuel."
Not any petrol it isn't, although the claimed electric range for the Outlander PHEV of 32.5 miles is somewhat optimistic. I struggled to better 22 miles and mains electricity isn't a free lunch, either. Plug in and the carbon dioxide emissions are between 500 and 550g per KWh for average UK power generation, which gives the Outlander a well-to-wheels CO² figure in EV mode of about 115g/km.
There's also the fact that in real life, Mitsubishi's 500-mile overall range claim using the 12kWh battery and the 9.9-gallon fuel tank is likely to be closer to 355 miles.
Still, that's how it is with almost all plug-in hybrids. The Outlander's official figures of 148mpg and 44g/km have been weighted with the results of two 25km test runs, one where the battery is drained and another where it isn't. Unless you plug in regularly, those economy claims are castles built on cobwebs.
And do people plug these vehicles in? Research says not and anyone who's plugged in a caravan or a boat will tell you how quickly cables get snaggly and dirty, leaving black stains over your clothes and the boot.
Anyway, to the Outlander, and while there might one day be a time when a plug-in hybrid doesn't require flashes of electric blue all over the bodywork, the Outlander proves it isn't here yet.
To Mitsubishi's credit, however, this third-generation Outlander looks pretty subtle compared with the Porsche Panamera plug-in hybrid we tested last month.
The Outlander isn't designed for places where crampons and carabiners are required wear, but it'll get you off a field of wet grass. The towing capacity is 1,500kg, which is 500kg less than the diesel's, but enough to tug a modest trailer.
The driveline, for which the latest Outlander was specially designed, consists of a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, with the inverter and charger at the front, the battery pack under the floor and two 80bhp electric motors permanently driving each end of the car. These are developed from the technology used in the small iMIEV battery-electric car.
The engine charges the battery via a generator when the car is in series hybrid mode and partly drives the front wheels at speed and generates current in parallel hybrid mode. While the driver might perceive that there's no transmission at all, in fact there's a single-speed reduction gear for each axle, plus a GKN eTransmission, which clutches in the engine.
The interior presents a well made and robustly designed dashboard with little to indicate the car's high-tech nature other than the electric power meter in place of the rev counter and the centre screen, which sluggishly accesses functions and power-flow diagrams, along with audio and connectivity information with all the glamour of a software development tool. There's a better software mobile app, which allows you to check the state of charge remotely.
The driving position is slightly weird, forcing you to sit up straight at the wheel with your feet jammed into the narrow pedal box by the bulging centre tunnel, which gives the strange sensation that you are steering the vehicle from over the front wheels.
The front seats are flat and unsupportive and not particularly comfy over long distances, although the accommodation is generous and the boot large.
Top models get an electric tailgate, but you have to aim the remote control with the accuracy of a laser-guided missile to get the tailgate creaking open like Dracula's coffin while you stand in the rain.
The gear lever is a centre-sprung joy stick much like that in the Toyota Prius hybrid. Pull it through to Drive, press the throttle, and the Outlander starts in battery mode with the motor chiming in when the charge state or throttle position demands. The only control you have is via a couple of buttons to either use the engine to charge the battery, which it will do at a cost of skyrocketing fuel consumption in about 20 minutes, or to hold on to the battery charge for some so-far mythical urban area where combustion-engined cars are banned.
Frankly, you're best to let the software get on with it, but it really does dance to a different beat, especially when the engine bursts into vigorous life for seemingly no reason.
It's not startlingly fast and you don't get that uncanny surge of acceleration so characteristic of electric drive. The motors are working hard against a kerb weight of over 1.85 tons, which is almost 500lb heavier than the diesel model – the battery alone weighs 507lb. It's similar to the performance level you'd expect from a 2.0-litre diesel and the PHEV Outlander is not a power hybrid of the sort Lexus and Porsche offer.
Dynamically it is soft at low speed, the tyres squish in the turns and the Outlander pitches and floats like an old-school SUV; you need to have a care to manage the mass if you aren't going to make your passengers queasy.
Strangely though, if you grab it by the scruff of the neck and hurl it up the road, it's really rather good, with accurate if lifeless steering. What helps here are the steering wheel-mounted paddles, which control the amount of regeneration braking that occurs when you lift off the accelerator. These were on the first VW Golf hybrid prototypes and were dropped for cost reasons, but they add an element of control which makes swift driving easier.
The braking is very good indeed, both strong and responsive, with just one criticism being the uneven performance when the battery is topped up and there's nowhere to put the regenerated charge.
Unlike its rivals, Mitsubishi has priced its plug-in hybrid competitively with diesels. It's still not exactly cheap, but London Congestion Charge exemption, a five per cent company car tax rating and favourable write down values will ease the pain.
For high-mileage drivers and those who don't plug in, the PHEV Outlander won't save much fuel or money and Mitsubishi is being laudably honest about guiding such drivers into a diesel, but for some folk, this ordinary looking SUV is a weighty but worthy answer to more environmental travel.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Generating Buzz in Ireland
The estimated price of the Outlander PHEV, which has an 50 km EV-range, will be €44,000 to €45,000, or about 10 per cent more than the diesel option.
Irish Independent/Ireland 10 Feb 2014
MITSUBISHI has come out of the blue with an electric SUV for the masses that leaves other manufacturers in its wake. The new Outlander PHEV changes the electric car forever and will convert even the most cynical critics of hybrid technology.
This is a big, comfortable family car that can travel over 50km on battery power alone, which covers the daily commute for most motorists. But you want to go further? No worries. An on-board engine can extend the range to over 800km.
Nothing new in that, you may say. Opel Ampera has a range extender and so has the new BMW i3, but Mitsubishi has pushed the boundaries even further with not two, but three, driving modes using the two-litre engine to both charge and drive.
Mitsubishi says its plug-in (this is where the PHEV comes from – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) technology combined with the unique driving aid of the combustion engine can give a range of 825km and in tests will return 1.9L/100km, about 124 mpg.
The 20-cell battery can be charged from a plug point to 80 per cent capacity in 40 minutes and it will also pick up charge on the move (braking and use of paddle) or by running the petrol engine when parked, so range anxiety is a thing of the past. Making your own electricity makes a lot of sense, Mitsubishi says.
Even though the electric motors have only one "gear", Mitsubishi uses paddle shift levers behind the steering wheel, which provides the effect of having five lower gears in a conventional gearbox.
Another piece of well thought out technology is the opportunity to switch to petrol power if you want to save the batteries for later in your journey. There is also a gauge to predict battery recharge time.
But this type of technology does not come cheap. The estimated price of the Outlander PHEV when it arrives here in May/June is €44,000 to €45,000, about 10 per cent more expensive than the diesel option. The C02 emissions are estimated at only 44g/km so road tax will be at the lowest point, €170 a year, excellent for a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The style is a plain, bulky look with big bumpers and alloy wheels. The drive is, as one would expect, very quiet on electric mode. The beauty about electric power is that you get instant torque from the word go and there is a seamless change when petrol power cuts in.
The driving position is good, although suspensions are set lower than on the diesel or petrol versions of the Outlander.
Game Changer: Mitsubishi's Outlander Electric Hybrid SUV
Mitsubishi's Outlander electric hybrid will be available in New Zealand for $59,990NZD, less than a Toyota Prius or Chevrolet/Holden Volt.
Stuff/New Zealand 18 Dec 2013
I've never before driven a full-sized all-wheel drive SUV that boasts an average fuel consumption of just 1.9 litres per 100 kilometres. That's 149 miles per gallon - a remarkable claim, given that this vehicle is a full- blown offroad-capable machine weighing in at more than 1800kg.
The vehicle is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, scheduled to arrive in New Zealand in April.
PHEV stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, which tells the story of what this new SUV is all about.
Each night an owner will be able to plug the Outlander into a household power socket and trickle-charge a high capacity under-floor battery at a cost of between $1.60 and $2.50 a night depending on the level of residual charge.
That will then give the Mitsubishi a range of up to 52 kilometres as a purely electric vehicle, the electricity fed to a pair of motors located on the front and rear axles that combine to deliver acceleration performance at least the same as a 3.0-litre petrol engine.
In the pure EV mode the Outlander will be able to be driven at speeds of up to 120kmh, which means it will be used both around town and out on the open road without using any petrol at all - and it will have easily sufficient range for a normal everyday commute.
If the owner wants to go further, or if the battery pack depletes to 30 per cent of its charge, then a 2.0-litre petrol engine will automatically kick into life and act as an electricity generator. In this mode it will be known as what is called a series hybrid, and on a full tank of petrol it will give the Outlander a range of more than 800km.
And if the driver needs extra grunt for such actions and climbing hills or passing other vehicles, then the Outlander PHEV will automatically transform into what is known as a parallel hybrid in which it will be the petrol engine that powers the vehicle with assistance from the two electric motors.
It really is a brilliant system, and it operates in a smooth and non-intrusive way. And importantly, it is all going to become available to New Zealanders from $59,990, which will price it way below other EV product already available here.
For example the Holden Volt sedan, which is the only other extended range electric vehicle in New Zealand, was introduced for $85,000. The little Mitsubishi iMiEV hatch, which is a pure electric vehicle, retailed for $59,990. And the Nissan Leaf plug- in EV sells for $69,000.
That pricing will also make the Outlander PHEV competitive against existing hybrid product such as the Toyota Prius which retails for up to $65,780, and it will beat the asking prices for many of the conventional petrol or diesel- powered SUVs that the standard Outlander competes against anyway.
There's one pre-production Outlander PHEV in New Zealand, and last week it was made available to selected motoring journalists to spend a day experiencing how it works.
At a briefing at Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand headquarters at Porirua, the company's head of sales and marketing Daniel Cook forecast the vehicle will account for at least 20 per cent of all Outlander sales here.
"It's a brillant demonstration of engineering expertise and a showcase of advanced automotive technology," he said.
"But it's more than that. It's also an affordable and therefore highly marketable proposition. This Outlander looks and drives exactly like any other Outlander, even though it carries all the electric vehicle technology. This means there are no impediments to purchase - and lots of good reasons to buy.
"We think that for many people this will be the best vehicle to suit their needs."
Climb into this new Outlander and start it, and the most significant thing that happens is that nothing happens. When sitting stationary as a pure electric vehicle it is totally silent - and in fact when the Mitsubishi does moves off it emits a special electronic sound as a means of warning those around that it is on the move.
The Outlander has a reduction gear transaxle instead of a traditional transmission, but even so when you want to head off you move a shift lever - called a joystick in this vehicle - out of the usual N and into the usual R or D.
And off we went, silently enough to be able to enjoy a normal conversation even at highway speeds.
Any hybrid vehicle recharges its batteries through regenerative braking, and a special feature of this vehicle is that the driver can control it.
As we drove through Porirua City then over the Haywards Hill we were able to move the joystick into B (for Braking) then use paddles on the steering wheel to adjust the regenerative braking strength. There are a total of six braking strength levels, with the B6 level strong enough to slow the Outlander almost to a stop as we decelerated down the steep hill towards the set of traffic lights on the Hutt Motorway.
We turned left at the lights for a drive over the Rimutaka Range - a solid assignment for any vehicle. The Outlander took it on with ease, with the petrol motor starting up and revving away when required, and then settling down to an idle or even turning off when it wasn't needed.
Handling felt secure, too. For starters, the under-floor location of the batteries mean this Outlander has a lower centre of gravity than the conventional models. The vehicle is permanent all-wheel drive, with the two electric engines providing their power to each axle, the rear motor offering slightly more torque than the front so the AWD can have a slightly rear-wheel bias during normal motoring.
There's also a control system called Super All Wheel Control or S-AWC, which regulates the brakes and yaw, and distributes power front and rear and even left and right to improve driving stability and handling precision.
Everything can even even be moved into 4WD Lock which evenly distributes torque to improve traction and straight- line stability on snow or dirt or other slippery road surfaces.
All this shows that despite the fact the Outlander PHEV is an electric vehicle loaded with battery packs and electric motors, it is still very much an offroad- capable vehicle. To prove that, this year Mitsubishi entered two of them in the 2013 Asia Cross- Country Rally in Thailand, a tough six-day offroading challenge. Only 20 per cent of the entrants finished - including both of the Outlanders.
So quite obviously when this new Outlander arrives in New Zealand, it will be able to be used in exactly the same way as its traditional petrol and diesel- engined siblings. But because it is a plug-in hybrid it will be different - and a major reason will be because it offers what MMNZ's Daniel Cook describes as "geek information".
The dash area features the usual hybrid vehicle energy flow meters, and drivers can also do such things as switch the vehicle into Battery Charge mode which orders the petrol engine to charge the battery even when the vehicle is stopped, or Battery Save mode which works to preserve battery power. There's also an Eco model switch which controls the air conditioning and moderates acceleration to improve fuel efficiency.
And how about this? Smartphone owners wll be able to install a special app that will allow them to remotely operate a number of vehicle functions.
These will include setting the timing of the charging of the vehicle so it can take place at times when electricity usage rates are often discounted, timing the air conditioning so the vehicle can be pre-cooled or pre- heated or the windows defrosted before it is used, or checking the status of the vehicle such as whether a door has been left ajar or the lights have been turned on.
Quite an appealing thought, isn't it?
I try to shy away from using the word game-changer when writing about new motoring product, but in the case of this new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV I'm convinced it has all the potential to be exactly that.
We might have already experienced hybrids, electric cars and even extended-range electric vehicles - but the difference this time it that it is going to be more affordable than ever.
AT A GLANCE
Powertrain: High-capacity under-floor battery powering front and rear electric motors, plus a 2.0-litre four cylinder Mivec petrol engine.
Output: Front electric motor 60kW and 137Nm, rear electric motor 60kW and 195Nm. Petrol engine 89kW at 4500rpm. Average fuel consumption 1.9 L/100km, exhaust emissions 44g/km CO2.
Chassis: Electronically controlled twin motor all-wheel drive with yaw control system. MacPherson strut front suspension, multi-link setup at the rear. Electronic power steering.
Safety: Not known, but expect full range of electronic handling and safety aids. Has been awarded five-star NCAP safety rating.
Dimensions: L 4655mm, W 1800mm, H 1680mm, W/base 2670mm.
Prices: XLS $59,990, VRX $66,990.
Hot: Brilliant use of new-age electronic technologies, plenty of power and instant torque, sound ride and handling.
Not: Under-floor battery storage means this Outlander can only be a five-seater.
Verdict: There's no reason why there can't be instant acceptance of this Outlander PHEV, both by traditional SUV buyers and the so-called early adopters.
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