Outlander to be Mitsubishi’s First PHEV

Mitsubishi’s recently-unveiled Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a first for this automaker, combining mainstream sport-utility appeal with advanced, plug-in hybrid efficiency. The Outlander PHEV promises drivers the flexibility of an affordable and spacious sport utility that can run in quiet, zero-emission electric mode for commuting, then turn around and handle weekend getaways for five with the cruising range of a conventional SUV. It builds upon the electric drive technology developed for the automaker’s all-electric i-MiEV.

The model’s all-new drivetrain includes a 2.0 liter gasoline engine-generator up front and 80 horsepower electric motors front and rear, with both motors connected to Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Drive Control system. Motors are powered by a 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged in four hours with a conventional 240 volt charging sta­tion or just 30 minutes with a quick charger.

What’s most interesting about the Outlander PHEV is how it seamlessly combines smart fuel efficiency and utility. Mitsubishi offers Eco, Normal and Battery Charge driver selectable modes, which focus on maximizing EV time, normal driving, or having the gasoline engine function mainly as a generator to keep the battery charged.

Depending on the state of battery charge, drive mode, and conditions, the integrated management system will automatically choose electric-only, series hybrid, or parallel hybrid mode. In series mode the gasoline engine charges the battery and the vehicle runs on the electric motors, but in parallel mode, like normal hybrids, the gas engine powers the car directly with help from the electric motors. As with other hybrids and EV’s the Outlander generates electricity from both its electric motors during deceleration and regenerative braking.

This new plug-in crossover/SUV offers minimum fuel consumption without sacrificing the four-wheel drive stability or the same dimensions and large 72.6 cubic feet of space that current Outlander owners enjoy (36.2 sq. ft with second row seats up). Gas prices probably aren’t going to be $2.00 any time soon, and customers will always need room to grow. The Outlander PHEV combines real utility with real efficiency. It could be the change that SUVs need.

Based on the Japanese JC08 driving cycle, an electric-only range of 34 miles is estimated with 547 miles achieved on combined gas and electric power. Coming to Japan in early 2013, Outlander PHEV sales will expand to Europe and then the U.S. and else­where.