“new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV provides what seems like almost impossibly good fuel economy”.
Manufacturers have been busily disguising their new SUVs as “crossovers” as the green lobby victimizes owners of these often massive but versatile, practical and comfortable big beasts as enemies of the climate.
Manufacturers often call their latest big four-by-four cross-country vehicles “crossovers” to pretend they are not really related to more controversial SUVs. To be fair, some manufacturers have invested heavily in cutting weight and using technology to try and make these big profit makers more fuel-efficient, but the main point seems to be the avoidance of the term SUV, even though the buying public want more and more of them, at the expense of regular sedans.
And greenies do have a point. These sport-utility vehicles often guzzle massive amounts of fuel, the price of which moves ever higher. And coupled with the fact that lawmakers in Europe and the U.S. have set out harsh rules for fuel consumption, the game did seem over for big SUVs and sedans in the medium to long-term.
Manufacturers have been scrambling to find ways of making their vehicles more fuel efficient. We’ve seen the first battery electric cars, which have failed to excite the buying public because of their high price and unreliable range. Diesel power in Europe has provided terrific fuel economy coupled with excellent power delivery, although this has so far failed to make much of an impact in the U.S. Diesels, even in Europe, now face big hurdles as new laws on harmful particulate emissions make the technology very expensive. Hybrids have provided a bit more fuel economy, but not enough to mean that aficionados of big vehicles might have to downsize to mini cars, or stay home. Fuel cell power is beginning to appear on the radar, but won’t be in a position to make a mark for years to come. So you can forget about renewing that big SUV or top of the range limousine? Thanks to new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology maybe you can indeed have it all for a while yet.
I’ve just been driving the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, an SUV on sale in Europe now and in the U.S. next year, and it provides what seems like almost impossibly good fuel economy. This vehicle has a battery and a gasoline engine. Unlike previous hybrids which at best had a battery-only range maybe one mile, the PHEV has up to 30 miles of battery-only range. You can generate more electricity while you are on the move, or plug it in at your home, office or shopping car park. The two-liter gasoline engine provides a total range of a claimed 512 miles. The Outlander PHEV is rated as being capable of an overall 123 miles per U.S. gallon. If you drive the Outlander PHEV on long journeys, the range will suffer as the gasoline engine takes over for high speed cruising. But if your driving is a mixture of urban and rural roads on relatively short journeys, the fuel consumption can be cut dramatically. The gasoline engine also works to replenish the battery, which can be augmented using the weight of the vehicle as it descends or freewheels, or the energy recaptured from braking. You can order up more “regenerative braking” by selecting various modes as you drive downhill.
This technology is currently available in the latest Toyota Prius, but is being eagerly adopted by luxury and SUV car makers who reckon this will make it much easier for them to meet, or exceed the upcoming swingeing rules. Porsche already has launched its 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid which combines a 608 hp, V8 gas engine, and two electric motors which power the front and rear wheels and provide a total of 286 hp. Porsche claims the 918 Spyder will average 75 miles per U.S. gallon. This week British luxury car maker Bentley announced it will add plug-in technology to its massive four-wheel drive Mulsanne limousine by 2017. BMW has announced it will add plug-in technology to its X5 SUV. Joining the club will be the Volvo XC90 in 2015. British based and Indian owned Jaguar Land Rover is expected to join in too.
But it’s not just big, pricey cars that will use this technology. VW is equipping its little Golf with PHEV technology, and its Audi A3 too.
Al Bedwell, analyst with LMC Automotive, has high hopes for the technology, which he thinks will outstrip battery-only vehicles.
“We are pretty bullish on PHEV as the way to go. We show PHEV outselling BEV (battery electric vehicles) in the long run. I see it as a technology best suited for larger cars and especially for the premium segment where the higher costs (after all it needs an expensive battery pack) can be more easily accommodated. But in return for the outlay the driver gets EV mode for a reasonable distance and people will definitely pay extra for that, as well as the potential for very low fuel costs. And, as you say, there is no range anxiety,” Bedwell said.
So the SUV has been rescued from ignominy as it morphs into a plug-in hybrid. No longer will owners have to claim their much-loved behemoths are really “crossovers” to avoid the tire slashing, the road rage, and entrapment at road junctions.