Smart phone users in New Zealand will be able to ‘speak’ to the new petrol-electric Mitsubishi Outlander SUV, warning it, for instance, that they are only minutes away on foot and want it to either start warming or cooling the cabin temperature.
A special App for the phones will be available for download when the all-wheel-drive Outlander PHEV and its drivetrain mix of two electric motors and a 2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine launches here next April.
The technology is not new – the Toyota Prius and Holden Volt respond to smart phones. What is new is a plug-in hybrid SUV that can react to such commands while in 4WD on a bush track, or returning a claimed very-best fuel consumption of 1.9 litres/100km (148mpg!) in electric mode on the highway.
There is another plus – the Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) is expected to start at $59,990, a price that suggested Mitsubishi Motors NZ marketing manager Daniel Cook (pictured above) was dreaming when he hinted at it two years ago.
“I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek back then,” he said. “I wasn’t being overly misleading because we were extremely hopeful we would get there, although we weren’t certain. Now it looks like will meet our target price.”
Cook said the $59,990 would be for the base model PHEV; the upgraded model would cost more. “Both will be the most well-speced SUVs on the New Zealand market,” he said.
The price has been helped by unexpected demand for the PHEV Outlander in Japan and Europe, where 30,000 units have been sold. That demand has in turn pushed down the price of the PHEV’s most expensive components: the battery pack/electric motors.
Cook expects the PHEV to account for 20-25 per cent of overall Mitsubishi sales in NZ. “Our dealers have already received deposits on the PHEV, without confirming the vehicle’s specifications,” he said.
“I have never seen that before. The first shipment is not quite sold out. Our main constraint will be supply for the first six months. We won’t get the number we want initially but we will take as many as we can get over time.”
The hybrid Outlander was due to be launched in NZ this year, following the release last year of the petrol and diesel variants. But demand in Japan, as well as delays in battery production – and cases of batteries overheating that resulted in a recall on Japanese-spec PHEVs – pushed back its NZ release.
The plug-in SUV is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine delivering 87kW/186Nm and mated to two 60kW electric motors, one up front, one at the rear. A 12kWh lithium-ion battery sits under the centre floor.
On the road, regenerative braking technology charges the battery; at home or work it can be plugged into a 240v outlet to be fully charged in four hours, or 30 minutes using a quick-charger.
The PHEV has three automatic driving modes: “EV” uses only the front and rear electric motors for zero emissions; “Series Hybrid” uses the petrol engine as a generator to charge the batteries, or when harder acceleration is required; “Parallel Hybrid” uses the petrol engine as the main power source with help from the electric motors.
The transmission is a multi-mode “e-transmission” that does not have ratios. In EV mode, the vehicle’s range is 60km on electrics alone; on a full tank of gas using the petrol engine with electric motors and battery, it is just short of a claimed 900km.
In Series Hybrid mode PHEV uses 5.3 litres/100km (53mpg). Mitsubishi tested a modified version of the Outlander PHEV in a rally this year through Thailand and Laos. It says the vehicle finished without incident.