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Mitsubishi plugs in Outlander for under $50K

Mitsubishi has announced the prices for its new Outlander PHEV, a vehicle that brings all the virtues of SUV ownership to the environmental cause.

Offered in two levels of trim, the Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) kicks off with a base model at $47,490 and tops out with the Outlander PHEV Aspire at $52,490. That pricing and the car’s level of standard equipment will be critical to the market’s acceptance of the first plug-in SUV sold here.

Mitsubishi learned with its one and only battery electric vehicle, the i-MiEV, that Australians won’t pay $60,000 for an electric vehicle – and nor will they even pay $48,800 for a car as small and uncompromising as the i-MiEV. Holden has encountered much the same buyer resistance to its Volt, the first plug-in passenger car sold in Australia. What the Outlander PHEV offers in response is the functionality of an SUV combined with the energy-conserving traits of a plug-in hybrid or BEV.

More http://www.motoring.com.au/news/medium-passenger/mitsubishi/mitsubishi-plugs-in-outlander-for-under-50k-42405

Mitsubishi plugs in Outlander for under $50K

Mitsubishi has announced the prices for its new Outlander PHEV, a vehicle that brings all the virtues of SUV ownership to the environmental cause.

Offered in two levels of trim, the Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) kicks off with a base model at $47,490 and tops out with the Outlander PHEV Aspire at $52,490. That pricing and the car’s level of standard equipment will be critical to the market’s acceptance of the first plug-in SUV sold here.

Mitsubishi learned with its one and only battery electric vehicle, the i-MiEV, that Australians won’t pay $60,000 for an electric vehicle – and nor will they even pay $48,800 for a car as small and uncompromising as the i-MiEV. Holden has encountered much the same buyer resistance to its Volt, the first plug-in passenger car sold in Australia. What the Outlander PHEV offers in response is the functionality of an SUV combined with the energy-conserving traits of a plug-in hybrid or BEV.

The plug-in Outlander offers plenty of kit for the price, although the base model is not as well equipped as the cheaper diesel Outlander Aspire. In the base model PHEV there are all the usual features expected at this price point: Alloy wheels, a four-wheel drive lock, trip computer, lavish infotainment system, electric windows/mirrors and climate control. The Outlander PHEV Aspire adds an electric tailgate, leather seat trim, sunroof and LED tail lights. As with conventional Outlander models, the PHEV is rated five-star safe by ANCAP, but to keep pedestrians out of harm’s way the silent-running plug-in models come with an audible alarm that operates at speeds up to 35km/h.

Mechanically the Outlander PHEV we get in Australia is ‘identical’ to the Japanese pre-production car driven by motoring.com.au in Japan last year. It features a 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder petrol engine – running a standard Otto cycle rather than the fashionable-for-hybrids Atkinson cycle. But most of the time the petrol engine in the plug-in Outlander is there to do little more than recharge the 12kW/h lithium-ion battery pack that stores power for two 60kW electric motors (137Nm front, 195Nm rear).

The motors are located over the front and rear axle lines, and drive each pair of wheels through different ratios for the front and rear differentials. While the petrol engine (89kW and 186Nm) usually operates just to recharge the battery pack, it can also supply motive power, via a clutch pack to the front differential. As reported from our Japanese drive, the final drive ratio for the engine works out at 3.45:1, making the petrol engine (developing 89kW) ideal for overtaking manoeuvres, rather than step-off acceleration. That translates to the engine running at 2100rpm for 80km/h road speed in what Mitsubishi refers to as Parallel mode.

The Outlander PHEV operates in three modes. EV mode is the default mode when running the car for the first time each day. It draws power from the battery pack to run the electric motor(s). In Series mode, the engine drives a generator to recharge the battery when that is depleted. When extra power is required – the 60kW of power the electric motors each produce cannot be drawn from the battery alone – the engine’s torque is shared between the generator to supply the motors and the clutch pack and drive shaft to the front differential for increased motive power.

For outputs below 60kW – and assuming the battery is sufficiently charged – the Outlander PHEV runs in EV mode. Between 60kW and 120kW of power output from the electric motors, the Outlander runs in Series mode. When the driver demands more power than 120kW (output of the two electric motors combined) the vehicle runs in parallel mode. The generator driven by the engine spools up the engine before the clutch allows torque to reach the road wheels, ensuring there’s no ‘shift shock’ in the change from Series to Parallel mode. It makes for smooth starting and seamless meshing of engine torque with the torque from the electric motors.

In parallel mode the engine is the primary supplier of motive power, but the electric motors can be called upon for supplemental power on demand. Mitsubishi claims that parallel mode performance – with supplemental power from the motors – betters that of the 3.0-litre V6 Outlander available in other markets. Combined-cycle fuel consumption is nominally 1.9L/100km, which presumes the Outlander PHEV’s Li-ion battery will be recharged each night from a domestic power point in a garage. The power outlet in the garage must be upgraded to 15 amps, by the way, rather than the standard 10-Amp outlet. Mitsubishi reckons that the cost of installing a 15-Amp outlet will cost the homeowner anywhere between $150 to $500.

The battery pack, located under the floor between front and rear axles has changed the weight distribution to 55:45 (front/rear), and Mitsubishi has lowered the Outlander PHEV’s ride height by 30mm to lower the centre of gravity. Total weight has risen 200kg over a conventional Outlander of similar specification.

As with other hybrid-drive systems, peak power and torque for the engine and two motors don’t coincide at one speed, so while the combined might of the three drive units would be 209kW (89 from the engine, 60 from each of the motors), it doesn’t work that way in practice, Mitsubishi advises.

While the Outlander PHEV is very easy to drive (see our review), there’s a mission control facility’s complement of trip computer and infotainment displays to keep the driver advised of how the vehicle is tracking. Mitsubishi is also offering the Outlander PHEV with a smartphone app that will allow users to set the climate control remotely, for instance, or time the car’s recharging from an electric outlet. Plus, there are different operational options available for the vehicle, including ‘battery charge’ and ‘battery save’ modes (activated from two buttons aft of the shift lever in the centre console.

In different driving circumstances, the driver can elect to run the petrol engine manually to keep the battery charged, and the battery save mode would be selected in the event of cruising into town on a freeway and anticipating a day spent driving around the suburbs.

The Outlander PHEV comes with regenerative braking that can be modulated using the shift paddles either side of the steering wheel. Six modes run from ‘0’ (no braking, just coasting), up to ‘5’ for maximum brake energy recovery. The shift paddle on the left runs up through the modes for incremental retardation, while the right paddle returns to lighter braking. As such, using the shift paddles in the PHEV creates a familiar engine-braking scenario on the left, or ‘up-shift’ scenario on the right; the difference being that the braking isn’t felt until the driver eases off the accelerator.

It all sounds very complicated, but the Outlander PHEV can be as easy to operate as the user wants; easier in fact than many conventional cars. If preferred, the owner can simply unplug it from the wall outlet in the morning, hop in, push a button , pull a lever across and down, press the accelerator – and you’re off. And if the owner can’t be bothered recharging the PHEV electrically, the petrol engine will keep it going, at a fuel consumption rate in the same ball park as a conventional small car with a petrol engine.

Mitsubishi trusts that prospective buyers will be drawn to the Outlander PHEV by either its ease of use or the possibilities it offers for green technophiles. With SUV packaging thrown in as well, it’s like the Outlander PHEV is odds-on favourite to win a three-legged race. That’s how the importer hopes things pan out in Australia. It’s certainly how things are shaping up in other parts of the world. The local launch of the Outlander PHEV has been delayed, according to Mitsubishi, because the factory has been overwhelmed by the popularity of the plug-in model in Europe, where 10,000 units have been sold to date.

But history shows that Australians are reluctant to embrace this sort of technology the way the Europeans have. The Outlander PHEV does have this going for it though: It is the best real-world, environmentally-clean alternative to the conventional car we’ve yet seen.
Review of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

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