Van User
Despite attending numerous electric commercial vehicle launches over the last 12 months, there remain very few alternative driveline choices for UK van buyers. While... Outlander resets the bar for plug-in commercials

Mitsubishi’s second generation Outlander is much improved, says Dan Gilkes

Despite attending numerous electric commercial vehicle launches over the last 12 months, there remain very few alternative driveline choices for UK van buyers. While we are seeing a number of full EV vans arriving on the market, the choice of hybrid drivelines is even smaller.

One company leading the plug-in charge is Mitsubishi, with its Outlander PHEV Commercial. Okay, it’s a converted SUV, but this is the second generation of a model that most competitors have yet to even take on for the first time. What’s more, this second version of the Outlander PHEV is a much improved vehicle, that should appeal to a far wider range of customers.

Mitsubishi has dropped the rather wheezy 2.0-litre petrol engine from the original PHEV, replacing it with a more powerful, 135hp 2.4-litre unit. This Atkinson cycle engine sacrifices low-down torque, which is replaced by the electric motors, for improved higher speed efficiency.

The Outlander has three distinct driving modes. EV drive mode uses the vehicle’s battery to power its electric motors, offering up to 28 miles of zero emission travel. Switch to series hybrid mode and the engine becomes a generator to power the vehicle batteries, with the electric motors still providing the motive force. Finally, at higher motorway speeds, parallel hybrid mode uses the engine to drive the vehicle, assisted by the electric motors when required.

If that all sounds a bit complicated, it’s not, as it all goes on behind the scenes. There is just a rise in noise levels when the engine is running and a change in the coloured arrows on the dash to demonstrate which way the power is flowing.

The driver can influence the mode choice though, saving battery power for urban use or bringing the engine into play to provide charging while on the move. There is even a sport mode if you want both systems to offer maximum power.

The driver can also control the amount of brake regeneration created, that is used to recharge the batteries while you are driving. There are paddles behind the steering wheel that offer six levels of brake regen, from coasting to full on heavy retardation.

While a full battery charge offers 28 miles of EV driving, the engine delivers an overall range of closer to 400 miles, removing range anxiety for longer trips. That said, the Outlander is not really intended as a long-haul cruiser.

If however you need a comfortable car-derived van, with the option of all-wheel drive, that can enter into London’s ULEZ and Congestion Charge zones, or indeed any of the new Clean Air Zones that are being proposed by cities around the UK without penalty, the Mitsubishi has a lot to offer.

That’s before you look at the numbers. Hybrid fuel consumption claims can be wildly optimistic, but they are achievable in the right conditions. Mitsubishi promises almost 140mpg and a CO2 figure of just 40g/km.

Having plugged in every evening, I managed to run the Outlander in local urban driving for three days without the engine ever starting. That’s some low-cost zero-emission motoring for a van user in the urban environment.

Even on a steady two-hour rural run, the mix of battery and petrol power provided an overall trip average of more than 110mpg, without being particularly light on the throttle. Admittedly, an early morning drive to Silverstone, for Mitsubishi’s L200 launch, saw the figure fall, but only to a still impressive 60mpg.

With the rear seats removed and the rear side windows blacked out, the van has a flat load platform and a steel and mesh bulkhead. Side as well as rear doors make the load area easy to access and it’s possible to carry a payload of up to 510kg, which is fairly normal for a car-derived model. The Outlander probably won’t appeal to those who want to tow however, with a trailer limit of just 1.5-tonnes. 

Nobody is going to opt for an Outlander PHEV as a major load-lugger though, its talents lie elsewhere. A zero-emission 4×4 could prove popular for waterways and environmental work, or even in construction management. The good news for those considering a move to a plug-in hybrid, is that the second generation Outlander is a far better vehicle, as an SUV or an LCV, than its predecessor.

VU SPECIFICATION
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Commercial

BASIC PRICE £25,121 after PiVG
ENGINE 4-cyl 2,360cc POWER 135bhp @ 4,500 TORQUE 211Nm @ 4,500

WEIGHTS (kg)
GVW 2,390 KERB WEIGHT 1,880 PAYLOAD 510 MAX TRAILER WEIGHT 1,500

DIMENSIONS (mm)
LOAD SPACE LENGTH 1,650 LOAD SPACE WIDTH 1,280 LOAD SPACE HEIGHT 800 WIDTH BETWEEN W/ARCHES 1,000 LOAD HEIGHT (UNLADEN) 840 LOAD VOLUME 1.6 

COST CONSIDERATIONS
Fuel tank capacity 45 Combined fuel consumption 139.7mpg  Carbon dioxide emissions 40g/km Oil Change 1 year/12,500 miles or variable WARRANTY 5 years/62,500 miles (traction battery 8-years/100,000 miles)