Plug and play: Deconstructing the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SUV

SUVs have come a long way since the early gas-guzzling tanks made the evolutionary crawl from farm land to inner-city soccer run. New Zealand’s first Plug-In Hybrid SUV is bound to appeal to everyone from early adopters to lovers of innovation and the eco-conscious. Idealog takes one for a spin.

A New Combo

The Mitsubishi Outlander is a popular model of SUV, with 30,471 sold in New Zealand in 2013 (capturing 28 percent of the market). Now the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle – otherwise known as PHEV – combines the safety and comfort of a modern five-seater SUV with the economy and emissions of an electric car. The average fuel consumption? According to local trials, this should clock in at around 1.9 litres per 100 kilometres. If that sounds like Greek to you, a petrol SUV would be closer to 10-12 litres per 100 kilometres.

The average Kiwi commute is 38km a day The PHEV has no clutch, as Lloyd Robinson, MMNZ technical services manager puts it, “it has a box of gears, but no gearbox.” maximum speed is 120km/hr

Second Life

After 10 years the battery is predicted to be at 80 percent capacity, so it’s still fully functional in electric mode but you only get 80 percent of the driving range. Electric car batteries are made with expensive metals such as nickel and cobalt and the replacement cost is in the thousands. Recycling the component parts of a battery a potential way of reducing the car’s environmental impact. When an electric car battery gets to the end of its usable life, it can potentially also be put to use domestically, for instance to run lights or store power generated by solar panels.

Them's the Brakes

Regenerative braking (think of the dynamo that charged the light on your old Raleigh 20) means that the resistance created when you drive down hills helps re-charge the batteries again. You can leave the car to figure out the optimum resistance or use the paddles on either side of the steering wheel to adjust the degree of resistance as you go.

Head to the Hills

Duel electric and petrol engines (it switches seamlessly from one mode to another as you cruise) means the PHEV doesn’t have the range limitation of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, or other all-electric models. And a 2.0-litre petrol engine (which automatically acts as a generator supplying electricity to the vehicle’s two electric motors when the batteries run low) gives the PHEV a range of around 550 kilometres on a tank of petrol. Palmerston North, here we come!

Charging While You Sleep

Plugging the PHEV in overnight (using a special charging cord that plugs into the car at one end and a regular three-pin plug on the other) you make the most of off-peak rates to charge the car for a measly $1.41. Using a smartphone app you can determine the exact time the charging occurs – and if you’re so inclined, set the seat warmer and demister to come on 10 minutes before you hop in on frosty mornings. Having charged the car overnight, you’ll be able to drive in electric mode for up to 50 kilometres the following day.