My first impression of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (plug in hybrid electric vehicle) was that it’s just too big.
I have an unresolved emotional issue with the very notion of the SUV. It’s just silly, who came up with such a daft, selfish, stupid notion?
When I see one person being transported in 2 tons of un-aerodynamic gas-guzzling steel, glass and plastic I get a bit depressed.
It is an insane way to get around and yet these wretched monsters are ubiquitous.
Of course I’m as guilty as anyone having once owned a Land Rover Defender 110 V8 Country wagon, about the least fuel efficient vehicle even Land Rover have ever produced.
But that was then, this is now.
One night when I was presenting my talk “Electric Cars Are Rubbish. Aren’t They?’ I made a tongue in cheek comparison between the fuel costs of driving 40,000 miles in a Nissan Leaf compared to a Range Rover Sport.
Of course it’s not a fair comparison, it was a joke but it highlighted an important point
I used the official Range Rover MPG and the Leaf turned out to be about £12,500 cheaper to drive that 40,000 miles.
After the talk four enormous blokes, all engineers at Jaguar Land Rover came up to me and told me I had the figures wrong.
Imagine my guilt, the man with dyscalculia caught out by proper engineers who build Range Rovers and know actual facts.
However, I was wrong because, as they informed me with glee, no one who owns a Range Rover Sport drives along a motorway in the UK at 57 mph, the speed needed to achieve the advertised MPG.
They drive at UK motorway speed, between 85 and 90 mph all the time, meaning that the hefty box is achieving closer to 10 mpg.
In fact the fuel cost difference between Leaf and Range Rover Sport over 40,000 miles is closer to £20,000.
So getting into a big boxy SUV and driving 137 miles on my own meant I was enrobed in an elaborate cloak of shame, except this SUV is a bit different.
I plugged it into my 32 amp (7 kW) wall socket for an hour before I left. The battery wasn’t empty when the car was delivered to me but I wanted a full battery to start the trip.
I drove 58 miles, stopped at Michael Wood services on the M5 and used an Ecotricity 50 kW rapid charger for, and I timed it carefully, 15 minutes.
I then drove into Bristol, parked in a multi story car park with free 13 amp (3 kW) outlets, plugged in, went shopping, had dinner with my son, went back to the car to find the battery full, and drove off.
On the return journey I stopped at the wonderful new Gloucester services with walls built by my pal Gilbert, plugged into another rapid charger for 10 minutes and drove home, a total distance of 139 miles
Overall fuel use on this trip? 95.1 miles to the gallon.
Yes, that’s right, 95.1 MPG in a two ton SUV where 70% of the journey was on the motorway at 70 mph. I used the adaptive cruise control which is as good as any I’ve ever experienced and makes motorway driving a breeze.
If you’re not sure what adaptive cruise control is, here’s a quick explanation. You reach your desired speed and set cruise control, if someone in the lane in front of you slows down, you slow down a set distance behind them, if they speed up you speed up until you reach the speed you set. It works very well.
Now I would be the first to point out that in general day to day use it’s doubtful you could get this level of fuel efficiency, I made an extra effort, charging at every opportunity.
I later did many more trips in the car, always leaving home with a full battery but not re-charging to the same extent. After just over 500 miles in total it was nearer 72 MPG but that’s still ridiculously impressive for a car that big.
I tried it off road, it was fine, deep water, no problem. It has permanent 4 wheel drive without being encumbered by a heavy and complex energy sapping mechanical transmission system. One motor drives the front wheels, one the rear. The traction control is very impressive so this car can do anything a regular four wheel drive can do.
Another annoying thing about 4 wheel drives, and I’m sure someone will explain, but I also can’t stand the term 4x4, or four by four as we say it
What does that mean?
To me with my primary school level of maths comprehension it means 8. No SUV has 8 wheels. (I will now undoubtedly receive a picture of an 8 wheeled SUV)
So who really needs an SUV?
You could argue that farmers do so I showed the Outlander to a farmer.
I explained that this model costs the same as the diesel version, it can do the same tasks as a diesel, permanent 4 wheel drive, able to tow a trailer of 1.5 tons, ford rivers, climb steep gradients yadda yadda yadda.
All farmers have somewhere off the lane to park and charge so there really is no excuse and thankfully, for once, the farmer in question was very impressed.
In fact this car is flying off the lot like it’s going out of style, it’s a very popular car and it’s not surprising.
I have been asked many times if I think hybrids are a cop out or if they are holding back the development of pure electric.
I think no on both counts, my original electric car was a Mitsubishi iMiev, the Outlander has used much of the technology they developed and refined for that car.
In a similar way, the technology in this car will find its way into pure electrics, plus, so many more people are going to experience the ease of use and economy of a plug in hybrid that I think they will consider 100% electric far more readily in future.
My overall take on it is that very soon all fossil burners will be plug in hybrids, and that will be a big improvement. Okay, it’s still a compromise, but it’s a step in the right direction and can make a huge difference, the technology is leaping ahead, just check the VW XL1.
So, even though my guilt chip was in meltdown as I drove through Bristol in a big fat SUV, it was tempered by the fact that the entire time I was within the city limits, I didn’t burn one drip of fossil.