Earlier this year, the plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV) version of the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander made its way to the U.S. It has been a mainstay in the European market for some time. In fact, in the past three years, the Outlander PHEV has been the best-selling PHEV on that continent, selling over 100,000 units and representing more than 10% of Mitsubishi’s sales in the market.
In a call with Automotive Fleet, Jeff Holland, director, public relations for Mitsubishi Motors North America, noted that, as of late, there has been a big demand from U.S. fleets with green initiatives for a vehicle like the Outlander PHEV.
These fleets want a vehicle with electric driving capability, that can also tow and provide more interior room than an electric or hybrid sedan can provide. At the same time, acquisition cost is an important factor, so the cost of the vehicle can’t be too high.
Demand for a vehicle like the Outlander PHEV motivated Mitsubishi to release a fleet-specific trim of the vehicle. The fleet trim isn’t available for the 2018-MY, but when the 2019-MY is released, it will sit below the current base-level SEL and high-end GT trims.
Given the importance of safety within a fleet, the fleet-specific model will include many of the safety features found in the GT trim, but to save costs will lose some of the luxury amenities, such as chrome finishes and leather seats.
Automotive Fleet recently tested the 2018 Outlander PHEV, and after some time behind the wheel, it’s easy to see why it’s been such a successful vehicle in the European market.
The vehicle offers plenty of room inside for passengers and cargo; a 20-mile electric range has the potential to cover a short route without dipping into the vehicle’s gasoline reserves; and the instant acceleration that comes with an electric powertrain makes for a surprisingly nimble driving experience for a vehicle of its size.
Inside, the vehicle holds a 12 kWh Lithium-Ion main drive battery along with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas-powered engine. It’ll run on pure-electric power until the battery depletes and then switch over to its gasoline engine. Two 60-kilowatt motors — one in the back and one in the front of the vehicle — helps provide instant torque, smooth acceleration, and an all-wheel drive system.
Although the Outlander is a fairly large vehicle, driving it in all-electric mode didn’t feel like I was behind the wheel of a 5,000-pound SUV. Driving uphill in all-electric mode presented little challenge even with five passengers and five passenger’s worth of luggage in the back. Even overtaking vehicles wasn’t too difficult in city streets thanks to those dual electric motors.
Charging stations are plentiful in Southern California, so the 20-mile all-electric range was enough to get me through my typical routes without using gasoline. Thanks to the Outlander’s DC Fast Charging capability, recharging the vehicle took anywhere between 15-18 minutes depending on how close to empty the vehicle was. The Outlander also supports Level 1 and 2 charging.
The cost of charging depended on how it was charged. Level 2 charging took roughly two hours for a full charge and cost a little over $3 at a station. As mentioned, DC Fast Charging took about 15 to 18 minutes but cost about $8.
Charging at home takes more than 10 hours for a full charge, but based on the Los Angeles price of 18 cents per kilowatt hour, it would cost about $2 for a full charge. This price, of course, would vary depending on energy costs in different cities; some public stations also provide free charging.
A 160-mile drive without recharging stations took about half of the Outlander’s 11.3-gallon fuel tank, netting an average 28 mpg. Charging through that route would have led to better fuel efficiency.
Interior passenger space was comfortable. There was plenty of room for five people, and five people’s worth of luggage in the trunk. With the back seats folded up, the Outlander offers 30.4 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold those seats down and cargo space jumps up to 78 cubic feet.
The Outlander PHEV shines the most in short-range routes. Its gasoline fuel economy isn’t bad, but the ability to drive the vehicle without using gasoline is the real draw.
“We’re working with one municipality that wanted to use it for their lifeguard service because with a 22-mile electric range, they wouldn’t spend any money on gas by cruising on the beach and then recharging the battery,” said Holland. “We’ve also talked to U.S. park services for their ranger fleet because they need the all-wheel drive, and utility that plug-in sedans can’t provide.”
Energy fleets and municipalities have also shown a lot of interest for the vehicle.
The 2018 Outlander PHEV starts at $35,915 for the SEL trim with destination included; the GT trim starts at $41,615 with destination included and before incentives. Pricing for the 2019-MY is expected to be in line with this pricing.
Related Photos: Mitsubishi's 2018 Outlander PHEV
Originally posted on Automotive Fleet