Facility to fast charge means the Outlander has powered up for the electric highway.
IMPROVEMENT to the country’s best-selling electric-assisted car is expected to spark up extra interest at a time when EVs are winning more public support, the model’s distributor believes.
Expectation is that the latest PHEV plug-in electric hybrid edition of the Mitsubishi Outlander will be integral to doubling the popular family sports utility’s sale volume has been expressed by the Porirua-based distributor, Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand.
New styling, an improved EV-only range and extension of the battery warranty from five to eight years accompany the facelifted PHEV, which officially goes on sale next month although dealerships are taking on demonstrator units now.
However, the key update to the range-extender model that again provides in XLS and VRX specifications, which at $60,990 and $67,990 respectively cost $1000 more than their predecessors, is that it is now configured for fast recharging off high-energy direct current stations.
It’s a major plus point over the previous car that would only stand trickle replenishment from domestic power, a process which could take almost seven hours.
The adoption of DC Fast Charge2 capability as an ancillary opportunity, however, allows the car to replenish 80 percent of the battery’s state in around 20 minutes, Mitsubishi claims.
This means it is up to speed with a more recent wholly EV entry, the Hyundai Ioniq, and the recently updated BMW i3 – also now sold in fully battery pure state - and the Tesla Model S in being better sorted to benefit from various ‘electric highway’ projects, most notably the Charge Net initiative to create a Kaitaia to Bluff network.
The petrol-electric still retains the trickle charging capability, with the new model sporting a CHADeMO5 DC Fast Charge port in addition to the alternating current mains connection point that the outgoing model configured.
The car is also still primarily fossil-fueled, as its drivetrain arrangement continues to allow the petrol engine to – an addition to being a generator - drive the wheels should battery power deplete to a point where it cannot engage. However, those instances are relatively rare.
Indeed, the car introduces another significant update to its drivetrain, with a new 'EV priority' switch that prevents the system from switching to hybrid mode. This means it can be driven through the whole electric-only range, now estimated at 54kms, without using fuel.
Daniel Cook, MMNZ’s head of sales and marketing strategy, reckons the update will stir up fresh fleet and private interest.
While the PHEV has already settled in as the country’s top-selling electric, it could do better still, given the strong climate for SUVs and increasing interest in EVs.
“When we first launched that car (the first gen PHEV) we were quite successful in generating a lot of retail sales inquiry, to the point where our website traffic went crazy and our dealers had a lot of customers.
“But the conversion rates were not that high. We were still doing quite good retail numbers though, over time, that changed and we built up more and more fleet sales … at the back end of the current model’s life, we were selling around 15 a month, the majority to fleets.”
He sees that continuing for the new model – Government, after all, and major companies are committing to taking EVs – but he believes the car’s enhanced range, the quick charge capability and the battery’s stronger warranty will increase the retail interest once again.
He suggests the retention of the AC (trickle charge) facility alongside the DC setup will offer a best of both worlds opportunity.
“With 48 Fast Charge stations nationwide – 100 are expected to be installed by the end of 20174 – PHEV owners will be able to power up on longer road trips in the time it takes for a quick stretch, coffee and a muffin,” says Cook. Alternately, they can enjoy the benefit of even lower power costs by maintaining the option to overnight trickle charge at home.
He says the proliferation of Outlander PHEVs is such, now, that the car has effectively normalised.
“Also, with more than 500 of these on the roads, the car is being seen and identified as a proven technology.”
That improvement will come despite the Ioniq now also being in the sector and also pricing into the same territory.
Cook isn’t at all perturbed by Ioniq’s arrival; he says the more different kinds of EV there are for New Zealanders to choose from, the better.
“It’s a good thing. I think the more cars of that genre come to the market, the more the market will accept them.”
However, he doubts that the Korean hatch will have as much appeal to Kiwis as the Outlander, simply because SUVs have proven to be far more appealing to the NZ lifestyle.
“From my perspective, the Ioniq is not the type of car that most people want – in that most people want SUVs. Those (SUVs) are the cool place to be at the moment.
“I think the Ioniq will just create more attention. They will probably sell quite a few, I suspect, but that will be good for us, too, I think.”
The PHEV also adopts the extra safety and tech enhancements that implemented into the latest orthodox editions at carryover pricing when they arrived late last year.
Blind spot warning, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and a Multi Around Monitor come into play and variants are also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
All the mainstream editions are now seven-seaters but the PHEVs remain five-seaters due to the design of the battery pack.
The PHEV engine maintains its present output of 149kW/190Nm but the optimal overall fuel consumption figure revises to about 1.7 litres per 100km.