They took electric vehicle technology from the sillylooking iMiev, “super” allwheel control technology from the Lancer Evo and off-road expertise from the Pajero to come up with the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV — or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle.
The PHEV is the first of its kind in the world offering the facility of plug-in electric recharging at home or work, hybrid electric recharging from the engine on the move and petrol power for the conventional 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder engine.
And it’s rated at just 1.9- litres/100km over the official ADR fuel consumption test using predominantly electric or electric-assisted drive.
The potential is there for an owner to run the PHEV for zero fuel cost and with zero emissions if they can tap into a solar array on their house to recharge the vehicle.
Otherwise, it will take about five hours through the grid, which at the ultra-low midnight electricity rate equates to about 40 cents for a full recharge. That gives you an electric-only drive range of about 52km.
So, theoretically, if you commute to work each day, say, 15km and do a bit of running around on the way home, the PHEV will cost you 40 cents in fuel costs. Not bad for a five-seater SUV with reasonable off-road capabilities and plenty of standard kit — to luxury level in the higher spec model.
And if you go further than that, PHEV calls upon the two on- board electric motors working with the petrol engine to keep things rolling along seamlessly.
Better again is the regenerative recharge system that assists the battery to attain a possible 80 per cent charge while the petrol engine is in use — for another 40-odd kilometres of “free” driving. The vehicle always starts off in EV mode, unless conditions dictate that the petrol engine be engaged — such as for towing (up to 1500kg).
Two Outlander PHEVs are available, the PHEV and the PHEV Aspire. The former is going for an accessible $47,490 and the latter $52,490.
It’s more than the conventionally powered Outlander medium SUV, but offers much more, including the high-tech S-AWC system from the Lancer Evo.
Drive comes from a pair of 60kW electric motors at the front and the rear and a frontmounted 2.0-litre petrol engine rated at 87kW/186Nm adapted from the Lancer and other Mitsubishi models.
Combined output using a complex formula that we don’t understand is about 150kW/220Nm to drive the 1810kg PHEV.
The transmission is a single-speed fixed ratio system offering forward and reverse.
All-wheel drive is apportioned to each axle like a torque vectoring system — dependent on available grip.
An 80-cell lithium ion battery pack is mounted under the middle of the floor.
The drive system runs in one of three modes: EV — purely on the electric motors; Series — where the petrol engine is used as an electricity generator to run the two electric motors; and Parallel — where everything is driving: the PHEV, petrol engine and two electric motors.
In terms of kit, the straight PHEV is well endowed, particularly after Mitsubishi initiated a recent styling and equipment upgrade across the Outlander range.
The PHEV gets 18-inch alloys (as do all Outlanders), chrome exterior brightwork, driving lights, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, roof rails, auto wipers and headlights, soft-touch interior including the dash, smart key, seven-inch info screen and a reverse camera.
The Aspire gets more, including leather and a smart phone-driven app called Mitsubishi Remote Control that allows you to operate the windows, aircon, headlights and other functions.
It’s an impressive vehicle to drive, smooth and super quiet, unless you really floor it and make the petrol engine kick in hard. The ride is comfy and it has plenty of pep.
We are going to try and run the PHEV on electricity alone for a couple of months. If successful, it will mean a weekly fuel bill of about $2.80 and not a cracker in excise to any form of government. A good get.