A new era of motor racing took to the streets when Beijing recently hosted the first Formula E – as in electric – event.Away from the race track, the appeal of electric-only vehicles is still curtailed for many by the cars’ limited range – in Formula E, drivers swap cars half way through a race as batteries run down. But there is a half-way house solution – the hybrid, with its mix of conventional and electric power.
The Le Mans 24 hours race has been won by a diesel-electric hybrid and, for those who wish to go down this route but also want the sure-footed qualities of all-wheel drive, Mitsubishi have come up with a petrol-electric 4×4. Flush Magazine spent seven days behind the wheel of an Outlander PHEV. Figures just released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show the car is the country’s best selling plug-in hybrid and, this week, the Caravan Club gave it their Award for Innovation at the Towcar of the Year presentation in London.
The manufacturer says the Outlander PHEV can travel 32.5 miles on battery power – more than enough to accommodate most daily commutes – and that it rarely needs to visit a petrol pump, with a combined fuel figure of 148mpg.
Emitting 44g/km of CO2, the car is exempt from road tax, and qualifies for the government’s £5,000 plug-in car grant. Hit the starter button and, instead of an engine sound, you are met with silence and a dashboard alert flashing up ‘ready’.Acceleration is beautifully smooth and rapid, with only an almost imperceptible whine from the electric motors (one for each axle). Information on the state of charge is by a dial where the rev counter would be, and if battery power was to ebb the car would seamlessly switch to the petrol variety. You can use the petrol motor to top up charge on the go and there is a kit for plug-in charging, although I didn’t need it.
I used a quarter of a tank of fuel where I might have expected to empty a full one in a week of driving a conventional car.There are three driving modes to choose from:
1. EV Drive Mode
An all-electric mode in which the front and rear motors drive the vehicle using only electricity from the drive battery. With zero on-road petrol consumption and zero CO2 emissions, the driver can enjoy a quiet and very eco-friendly performance in this mode, subject to weather conditions and the extent to which the car’s heating system and air conditioning are used.
2. Series Hybrid Mode
In Series Hybrid Mode, the petrol engine operates as a generator supplying electricity to the electric motors. The system switches to this mode when the remaining charge in the battery falls below a predetermined level and when more powerful performance is required, such as accelerating to pass a vehicle or climbing a steep gradient.
3. Parallel Hybrid Mode
The system switches to this mode when the vehicle reaches high speeds. In this mode the high- efficiency petrol engine provides most of the motive power, assisted by the electric motors as required, such as when more powerful performance is needed to accelerate or climb a slope.
Equipment on our car included posh satnav, electrically-adjustable heated leather seats, powered sun-roof and tailgate, and a parking camera, which I found a boon for rear visibility is compromised by the high tailgate window, as in most 4x4s.With a large load area, comfortable interior and rewarding driving experience this hybrid shows that Mitsubishi’s designers and engineers are bright sparks.
200bhp; 0-62mph,11 seconds; 1,500kg towing capacity;
Price: From £28,249 after government grant.