Driving the new 4WD PHEV (Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) off-road.

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Bruce Loxton and Phev at Bombala River off-road test It is only 5 years ago that the thought of an “electric vehicle” conjured up a golf cart with small wheels and a jerky take off. Then along came compact Hybrid cars, followed by the Tesla Sports Saloon. Now we have a 4WD!

It isnt a beefy Cape Killer but was a pleasure to drive in the soft sand of the Bombala river bed in the Snowy Mountains. With the Dual 4WD motor lock on, all 4 wheels were driven with no spin, with not even a hint of a struggle and no engine sound!

Like a lot of new technologies, you have to own and gain personal experience to really understand it. This is certainly true with electric vehicles.

So the author purchased a 4WD PHEV: a Mitsubishi Outlander.

For a start, a PHEV is a “Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle”. It can run on batteries only (Electric Vehicle) which are charged by plugging into a 240V wall socket. (A 15Amp one just like our camper trailers!)

However, it can also run with the petrol engine driving the generator to charge the batteries or directly connected to the wheels at high speed. This is what makes it a “Hybrid”. Although the engine is a petrol engine, it takes the cheapest unleaded with the 10% ethanol mix.

Phev Braking off-RoadBefore we discuss the “off road” experience, this 4WD will spend 80% of its time in the city with runs to the snowy mountains on winter weekends and onto the beach for fishing. It wont be scheduled for a Cape Trip or to the Kimberleys. You will need a regular 4WD for those trips!

After 3 days and 250 kms driving “around town”, the PHEV has used less than 2 litres of petrol. There are 2 of us driving with the other being the 16 year old son new to his “learner plates”. He is both loving it and learning a totally new way of driving.

At least 1 litre of the 2 litres was used in accelerating to 100kms/hr and holding it there on the freeway for several kilometers.

There is a technique to getting the most out of an electric vehicle and it takes a little training.

Around town, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has 5 levels of regenerative braking. There are 2 paddles behind the steering wheel and these step through the regenerative braking levels. By selecting the level for the downhill distance being travelled optimizes the braking/generation.

Let me explain this in a little more detail: If the most aggressive form of braking is selected, then for a soft downhill section, you will need to accelerate and brake to keep moving at the right speed. Whereas by selecting a less aggressive braking level, you just glide to the bottom of the decline and the PHEV is nicely generating power for the batteries all the way.

By doing this, we were able to get 12 kWHrs per 100 klms compared to the standard 25 kWhrs/100 klm. The battery is 12 kWhrs with the result we got nearly 100klm out of the batteries per charge.

If you need to travel further in one trip, then the engine will cut in and charge the batteries while you are using the electric motors or drive the wheels directly at high speed.

On the first long distance trip to the Snowy, the vehicle operated in Hybrid mode for the 1200 klm round trip. However, the performance was impressive with quick acceleration in the 90-110 Klm/hr band overtaking haulage trucks approaching Cooma.

Using the regenerative braking is easier at high speed. There is just one effective level unlike the 5 levels available at lower speeds around town.

Mitsubishi Phev Display of average kWr per 100 klms Sydney driving resized 600The finest performance though was in the Bombala river bed. The vehicle travelled over soft sand and mixed loose stones where horses and cattle had been. There was no definitive vehicle track. With the windows down, it was a pleasure to travel with virtually no noise in electric mode only. It just seemed more natural and un-intrusive with nature.

There is a total of 120kW maximum capacity with both electic motors and they were running around 60% of this through the sand. Going up a reasonable steep hill saw the motors approach their maximum with the engine now running, albeit quietly. There is a “Dual motor lock” feature similar to a diff lock.

Back onto the highway, economy took second place to a performance test at accelerating and cornering. It felt like a regular vehicle. There are times when just the front wheels are being driven but in the steep climb or acceleration, the batteries are driving the rear wheels and the engine plus the batteries are driving the front wheels for a true 4WD.

I can see this vehicle fitting in well for a city vehicle with occassional off road use or the weekend “get away”.

City driving the PHEVThe economics of my testing are as follows: Each night there was a 12kW charge at the “off peak power” time (scheduled timer in the vehicle makes it easy). This costs 8.8c/kWhr at our house so it is $1 a charge. The total for 3 days was a cost of $3.00 approx. for 250klms. On the trip to the snowy and the off road detours, it averaged 7 lires/100 lkm.

For a typical week, you could plan on 5 days at $5 and a weekend at 200klm which is 14 litres, lets say $20. So the total fuel cost would be around $25 a week on average with 600klm travelled.

Although that may raise an eyebrow, it is not the main reason I would buy one. It is the quiet operation, the low carbon emmissions and the potential use of renewable energy that appeals to me!

The next project is to tow a Kimberley Kamper. The Outlander can pull 1500kgs which is well within the towing band. The towbar is fitted and the treg hitch ready to go: Stay tuned for this test!


Postnote: Already had several emails asking about the power output as some articles show different numbers to above. Here are the electric and engine power output data taken from the manual and Mitsubishi product development:

Electric and Power Maths Power Torque
Engine 147kW 199Nm
Generator 70kW
Front Electric Motor 60kW 137Nm
Rear Electric Motor 60kW 195Nm
Max Power available with Engine Driving Front Wheels and Battery rear wheels.
(as seen in acute hill climbing)
207kW 394 Nm
Battery Voltage (DC) Battery Energy Capacity
Battery is Lithium Ion weighing 200 kgs; but offset this higher weight with the smaller 45litres fuel tank 300V 12kWhr

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7 thoughts on “Driving the new 4WD PHEV (Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) off-road.

  1. Richard Sweeting

    Bruce, not the same as as a UR170Tm, but it sure sounds and interesting drive. I’ll give some thought to the performance figures and comment later. Meanwhile, when in electric mode, is it too silent for safety of pedestrians??

  2. Mark Langdon

    Very informative, great idea for an all purpose week – weekend car, what is approximate cost

  3. Bruce Loxton Post author

    Mark, I paid $50k for the top of the line As 
    Ore model with a tow bar and front sensors.

  4. Bruce Loxton Post author

    Richard, one of its gadgets is a ” FCM” which stands for front collision management. It beeps at any pedestrians who wander out in front!

  5. Bruce Loxton Post author

    Just a comment, all my tests are with the airconditioning off but with the music blasting away! 
    The airconditioning adds quite a drain and is similar to the energy challenge we have with the 12v air con in the Kruiser and Karavan when running off 12v.

  6. Peter Harrington

    Fascinating review, good coverage of different driving types with impressive figures. Only letdown was the consistently incorrect annotation of kilometres (km), which appeared as klm throughout the article, leading the reader to assume a lack of credibility. I would love to know more about Mitsubishi’s advances in hybrid electric technology, having been an owner of various Mitsubishis over the last decade

  7. Bruce Loxton

    Thank you Peter, yes I do use klm regularly, I picked up the habit overseas and … am an engineer who struggles with spelling.
    The Phev is now coming up to a year old with about 20,000km on it. The results are sensational with 6,280km being the longest period between filling up the 45 l tank.
    I had nearly 10 years at ABB and the “Electric Drives” business reported to me. Mitsubishi was a tough competitor and the only company with battery, electric drives and motor vehicle experience. I think their strategy on Plugin Hybrid EV is the best. BMW’s is a joke, Merc have tiny batteries and the tesla is a risk with range and the time needed to recharge! Incidentally, I spent time with Elon Musk last year in Silicon valley and he has the best vision, but it is suited to a limited range.

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