2014 Mitsubish Outlander Phev.
2014 Mitsubish Outlander Phev.

Electric Dream: Our new test Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid PHEV

Electric dream? The 2014 Mitsubish Outlander Phev.
Electric dream? The 2014 Mitsubish Outlander Phev.

We need to talk electric cars.

No, don't stop reading just yet, I promise this won't be a lecture on how the future is 100% eco-babble green and if you own a sportscar or large SUV you're as detestable as those who spend their weekends clubbing baby seals.

We need to talk electric because this is our new long-term test car, a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and we'll be running it over the next four months to see just how beneficial - or not - ownership of one is in 2014 Australia.

Electric ignorance

The vast majority of us simply don't know enough about electric vehicles (EVs), hybrids (HEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and such ignorance makes them easy to criticise, shun and even ridicule.

I've always been sceptical of anything electrical hybriddy, but am in the fortunate position to have tested and lived with a fair few now to have some informed opinions.

My eyes were opened when testing BMW's all electric Active E 1 Series, which served as a test mule for the recently released electric BMW i3.

With only an electric motor to call upon, its dynamics and performance (particularly its silent acceleration) impressed me greatly, even if its quoted 150km range still left me with the dreaded 'range anxiety' (i.e. will I get home without needing to recharge?)

Then came what I considered the perfect compromise: Mercedes' E300 BlueTec Hybrid using a diesel engine and backed up by a small-ish electric motor to give a combined return of 4.3l/100km - this in a hefty luxury sedan remember.

There are now a number of HEVs on offer in Australia - plus many more on sale globally where markets have embraced the technology more than we have - but Mitsubishi's PHEV is the first SUV of its kind in the world.

 

Nothing to fear?

I'm already convinced by the electric motor paired with conventional engine approach after previous experiences, so it's not as if the Mitsi has to win me over to its electric heartbeat, whereas some people I know (motor journalists included) simply don't want a thing to do with electric technology.

Many points are valid, although range anxiety is not one of them in this instance due to the PHEV's petrol motor.

Common grumbles are high initial purchase price, the unknown cost of replacing worn batteries in the future and questionable eco benefits unless your electricity comes from renewable sources like solar.

All will be explored and evaluated over the coming months, but for now, a quick introduction.

 

The hardware (and software)

Our Outlander PHEV is the range-topping Aspire version, and at $52,490 it's hardly outrageously pricey for a decent-sized luxury SUV, but yes, that is the best part of $10,000 more than the non-plug-in hybrid version.

It has two 60kW electric motors offering a stonking 332Nm of torque, while the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol brings 87kW and 186Nm to the party.

With full battery it's good for 50km on electric power alone, and this can be recharged with a 15A household plug, by using the petrol engine as a generator and through regenerative braking while driving.

Appealingly, it's big enough for the family, has proper four-wheel drive credentials and is flush with a decent array of toys inside and out.

Mitsubishi speaks of 1.9litre/100km which in these times of high fuel prices (and we can expect them to climb further) makes is pretty damn appealing to me.

It will be an interesting long term test with many factors to evaluate, so stay tuned for our first impressions of the big plug-in Outlander.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Details: Five-door four-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid SUV.

Engine: Two 60kW electric motors with combined maximum torque of 332Nm and one Lithium-ion 12kWh 300V battery. 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol

engine generating maximum power of 87kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 186Nm @ 4500rpm.

Consumption: 1.9 litres/100km (combined average).

Charging: Five hours for full charge with 15A plug-in and 30 minutes for a fast charge.

Bottom line plus on-roads: Aspire $52,490.



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