The Unsealed 4X4 Review: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

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ByUnsealed 4X4September 23, 2014
The Unsealed 4X4 Review: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The Outlander’s PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) variant, has a range of only 50km on pure electric driving, but in combination with a conventional internal combustion engine, could theoretically do a desert crossing using combined volt/fuel power. And that wouldn’t require bringing along a portable gennie (and a 15V powerpoint) if you just drove using the on-board generator to charge/drive as required. Outlander PHEV is the latest demonstration of Mitsubishi’s commitment to its ‘@earth’ policy, an ‘environmentally responsible’ initiative that the Japanese company hopes will emblazon its image with a recognition of commitment to ecological sustainability.

MMAL (Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited) has been taking out full-page ads in major metropolitan newspapers to increase awareness of the PHEV – a considerable financial investment in something that at best will gain marginal (and peripheral) sales. Why? Mitsubishi obviously believes that such pessimistic sales predictions will be wrong, and has gone on record as saying that plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles will account for around 20 per cent of MMC production by 2020. For example, relatively soon, expect to see PHEV Pajeros and ASX SUVs in dealer showrooms. “The Outlander PHEV is the first vehicle of its kind,” says Shayna Welsh, MMAL’s head of corporate communications. ”It’s the world’s first plug-in hybrid electric SUV, so naturally we’d be very keen to promote it – there’s nothing like it currently in the marketplace and it’s also very affordably priced, and we think this will drive the average Australian car buyer to seriously consider EV technology, perhaps for the first time.”

Ads for the Outlander PHEV claim a fuel consumption of only 1.9L/100km. The figure complies with ADR (Australian Design Rule) 81/02 – Fuel Consumption Labelling for Light Vehicles – which means it requires Federal Government sanction and is anything but just advertising hype. Admittedly, the figure would have been achieved in optimal conditions, and obviously, prolonged four-wheel driving would increase it. But even so, if you doubled – even tripled – it, the Outlander PHEV exceeds all economy expectations. According to the Australian Government Green Vehicle Guide, the best rec vehicle fuel performance currently belongs to the Subaru Forester, with a figure of 7.2L/100km. Amongst the vehicles we’re more interested in, a Land Rover Discovery TDV6 is quoted as 8.8L/100km – something we didn’t achieve in a recent test – and the Pajero diesel comes in third position with 9L/100km – it’s the vehicle I drive day-to-day, and my average fuel consumption in real world conditions is 11L/100km, so don’t expect to get what the Green Guide states.
(A few other quotes from the Green Guide: Audi Q7: 9.2L/100km; Mahindra Pickup: 9.9L/100km; 200 Series LandCruiser: 10.3L/100km (with the 70 Series coming in at 11.5L/100km); Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen: 11.2L/100km; Nissan Patrol 11.4L/100km; Jeep Cherokee V8 (despite its engine running on four cylinders in ‘non-stress’ situations): 13L/100km.)

OK, say I decided to trade in my Paj for a $47,490 Outlander PHEV; besides the obvious disadvantages in cross-country mobility afforded by the Outlander, how long would it take me to offset the $11,000 premium the PHEV has on top of the price of a standard Outlander? I’d need to travel 91,000km to make the difference. The average person travels 24,000km a year, but recreational 4X4 travellers like us would probably make that figure look miniscule.

Can I charge my PHEV at home? Yes, but it may involve more than a little expense. According to James Brown, the national manager of ChargePoint (the only company currently establishing networked charging infrastructure in Australia), the cost of installing a domestic 15 amp supply will vary according to a number of factors.

 “The price could be as low as $550 in some circumstances to over $1000.” Depending on the tariff charged to your home, the cost of an empty-full recharge would vary between $1.80 and $3.60, according to James. Using a charging station on business tariffs, on the other hand, would be around $1 for a similar ‘refill’, so unless you live way out in the boonies, the dedicated external charge station would seem to be the best option.

ChargePoint has already installed charging stations in all the capital cities of Australia, as well as in Townsville, the Hunter Valley, Wollongong and Canberra, and, “the growth of stations in regional and rural areas is expected to grow in tandem with the sale of vehicles”.

Mitsubishi claims the Outlander PHEV will take around five hours to fully recharge in a domestic situation. According to James, an equivalent charge at a ChargePoint station will take just 3.6 hours, and a 30 amp charge (for vehicles apparently coming to a showroom near you fairly shortly) will take just 1.6 hours.

All these new technological applications for 4X4 vehicles are very much still in their infancy, and probably now of more interest to those environmentally conscious buyers who predominantly drive their 4X4s in the city, but the times they are a changin’.

Words: Ian Glover

OUTBACK TEST FOR OUTLANDER PHEV

Mitsubishi is going to give its new hybrid vehicle a stern challenge by racing it in the 2014 Australasian Safari (September 19-27).

The iconic off-road endurance event will see the Outlander PHEV tackle more than 3000km of rugged West Australian terrain featuring sand, salt plains, dry river beds and desert tracks.

It will be the first plug-in hybrid 4X4 officially entered in an Australian motorsport event, according to Mitsubishi, and will compete in a class created for hybrid production vehicles.

The Outlander PHEV has previously competed in two rally events in south-east Asia.

Each night on the Australasian Safari a generator will be used to recharge the Outlander PHEV’s battery, but it will also rely extensively on petrol power to complete each leg.

To withstand the tough conditions, the vehicle will have extra underbody and frontal protection installed, along with competition brake pads, rally tyres and springs.