Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV road test review: DAVID HOOPER reveals what it’s like to really live with a PHEV and how it fits into daily life, if not his garage!
THE Government tells us that electric cars are the future and after 2030 that’s all we’ll be able to buy new, the internal combustion engine will be no more.
Talk to the industry though, and its money is ultimately on hydrogen fuelled vehicles. The problem with both of these technologies however, is infrastructure. There isn’t enough of it. Unless you’re Bill Gates, who recently bought a half-billion pound superyacht which is hydrogen powered – but wisely he’s got diesel engines to fall back on if he can’t refuel with hydrogen.
At the moment, pure electric cars account for around 7% of total new car registrations. If you include PHEVs, that figure rises to around 11% of the new car market.
As I discovered when I lived with this Mitsubishi Outlander Plug In Electric Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV) for a week, finding somewhere to charge your car away from home can be a challenge, and the free charging point I did find was closed and cordoned off.
If you owned the car, you would have a charger installed at your house which will charge your car in an hour or so, and no doubt you’d sign up to the various schemes that give you access to public charging stations which charge your credit card, but with only a week with the car, I didn’t do that. Friendly Mitsubishi dealers will also charge your car for you, if you’ve got an hour to kill.
The PHEV can also be charged from a 13 amp socket in your garage, but mine was on the back wall of my garage and the lead and charging unit supplied by Mitsubishi only reached about half way. The company tells you not to use an extension lead because that is a fire risk, so I had to evict my classic car and reverse the Outlander half-way into the garage. If it went in any further, I wouldn’t have been able to get out of it as modern garages aren’t really designed for large SUVs to live in! And I’d forgotten my flask of coffee and a newspaper!
Anyway, once fully charged, you’ve got around 28 miles of range on electric power alone, a little more if you turn off your heating, electric seats and electric steering wheel which are rather nice to have on frosty winter mornings. Admittedly, 28 miles doesn’t sound much, but a little can go a long way, especially around town, at low speeds, which is where the PHEV really comes into its own. If you live and work within 14 miles of your home, you could hardly ever need to use any petrol.
My daily commute is a bit further than that, around 33 miles, so it became quite a challenge, and quite a bit of fun, to see how far I could get, eeking out every last volt of my 28 miles of battery power.
Make no mistake, the technology in the Outlander PHEV is not only clever, its surprisingly versatile. Drive the car at 60 or 70mph, and your battery will run out in much less than 28 miles, but you can press a button to “Save” your electric energy. The car then operates as a “conventional” hybrid, using a mix of petrol engine and electric motor – the switch between power sources is virtually seamless.
You can also put charge back into your battery as the car brakes, or slows down as you approach a corner. Two flappy paddles allow you to adjust the resistance, and therefore how much energy is gathered when you lift off the throttle pedal, so with a bit of good observation and planning ahead, you should hardly ever need to touch the brake pedal on a cross country trip, unless you need to come to a complete stop.
Believe it or not, there is even a “Sport” button, which brings both the petrol engine and your precious electric charge into play to give maximum power if you’re feeling slightly racy! But this is no Evo . . . sadly!
So, what about real-world economy I hear you ask. How much does it cost to charge the battery? About £1.70, depending on your tariff at home. So 28 miles for £1.70 on electric alone is quite attractive and cheaper than using the petrol engine.
On my daily commute, the best I managed was 72mpg overall, using the electric energy in town, and the petrol hybrid mode during the higher speed bit of the journey, and then switching back to Electric Vehicle mode in the city where I work. At normal motorway speeds without any battery power, I got a return of only 33mpg, but driving like a saint on cruise control at 60mph I could get that up to about 37mpg.
Curiously, the Outlander PHEV doesn’t keep track of overall mpg, so I can’t tell you my overall mpg figure over my week with the car.
Should you buy one? Well, that depends on your lifestyle, how far from work you live and whether you can charge your car at your workplace. It wouldn’t work for me at the moment as I do too many miles and can’t charge the car at work, but for other people it could slash petrol costs.
You also have to “buy into” the Outlander PHEV to get the most out of it. If you want to just get into the car and drive it, you can do that, but you won’t get the most benefit from owning the vehicle. You have to think about your driving, and work the car to extract the most distance from your arsenal of battery power, hybrid power and petrol engine combinations.
The technology is brilliant and I enjoyed exploring its potential. The Mitsubishi Outlander is a great introduction to electric vehicle technology, and thanks to its petrol engine allows you to largely avoid something we’ll be hearing much more about in the coming years as more fully electric vehicles take to our roads – range anxiety – that moment when you realise that you used more electric battery power than you expected to and you might not make it to the next charging point.
You just have to hope it’s open . . . if you get there!
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
ENGINE: 2360cc, 135PS four-cylinder petrol engine, driving four wheels through automatic gearbox.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 106mph. Electric range 28 miles.
Charging time – 5 hours (3 Pin Plug)
CO2 EMISSIONS: 40g/km. VED – £0 – 1st year free.
FUEL TANK: 43 litres.
PRICE: From £41,705
WARRANTY: 5 years/62,500 miles
• All data correct at time of publication.