Mitsubishi’s potential game-changer

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08:40 PM February 26th, 2013

By: Charles E. Buban, February 26th, 2013 08:40 PM

THE OUTLANDER PHEV has the potential to be a game-changer: With some of the best economy figures, all-wheel capability and a spacious interior, it will surely appeal to a lot of buyers.

Overshadowed by last week’s 50th anniversary bash of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. was Osamu Masuko’s announcement of the imminent rollout of the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) version of the upcoming 2013 Outlander crossover.

The president of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., during last week’s morning press conference held in Makati City, reported that the world’s first production plug-in hybrid crossover—currently available only in Japan—will soon be hitting showrooms across Southeast Asia, Europe and North America.

Most important creation

The all-new Outlander PHEV is perhaps Mitsubishi’s most important creation. Masuko related that they learned so much from marketing the i-MiEV subcompact hatchback. “More than the price tag and infrastructure (charging stations), having a longer cruising range and more passenger room are now big considerations,” he said.

As a new-generation midsized crossover, the Outlander PHEV has the potential to drastically reduce fuel bills without any real compromise on maximum range, comfort, practicality or all-weather dependability.

800 kilometers

While the Outlander PHEV may look nearly like the rest of the model range, this particular variant has been rated to travel more than 800 kilometers on one full charge and one full tank (this is like driving from Manila to Vigan and back without refueling) or travel 55 km on electric power alone (without charging).

This writer was able to drive a prototype of this plug-in crossover in December 2011, during the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show.

While I did not pay so much attention to the test unit considering we were all busy enjoying with the then newly introduced i-MiEV compact electric hatchback (and the fact that the prototype still used an old Outlander body and interior appointments), this writer, nevertheless, realized its potential should Mitsubishi decides to mass-produce the model.

Indeed, what a difference a year makes. With the arrival of the third-generation and new-look Outlander and its PHEV variant, the market now enjoys both worlds: an electric vehicle/zero emissions powertrain and a spacious crossover that is perfect for comfortable long-distance drives.

Combining the electric powertrain and the 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder MIVEC gasoline engine, the Outlander PHEV offers a  remarkable fuel-consumption rating of 67 km/liter (with the gasoline engine fully utilized, this variant is rated to come up with a 18.6-km/liter efficiency).

The Outlander PHEV is driven primarily by two 80-HP electric motors, one for each axle, making this crossover an all-wheel-drive ride.

These motors are the same ones found in the i-MiEV and draw power via two independent current inverters, from a 12-kWh lithium-ion battery under the floor (reason why this variant is about 200 kg heavier).

A sophisticated computer system constantly optimizes power usage, and regenerative braking captures waste energy for recharging of the battery. At high speeds and full power, the gas engine does most of the work, but recharges the batteries in the process.

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