The Japanese automaker says that the Outlander PHEV is the world's first plug-in hybrid SUV offering "the environmental performance of an electric vehicle (EV), the cruising range of a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, and the on- and off-road performance of an SUV".
The Outlander PHEV's hybrid powertrain links a 2.0-liter four-cylinder petrol engine to a pair of electric motors, one on each axle, along with a high-capacity 12 kWh lithium-ion drive battery.
All electric systems are derived from other pure-electric Mitsubishi models such as the i-MiEV.
The vehicle offers three separate driving modes named EV, Series Hybrid and Parallel Hybrid, that can be selected manually or automatically, depending on driving conditions and remaining battery charge.
In EV mode, the front and rear motors drive the vehicle using only electricity from the drive battery. According to Mitsubishi, in this mode, the battery gives the crossover a cruising range of over 55 km or 34 miles.
When the Series Hybrid mode kicks in, the gasoline engine operates as a generator supplying electricity to the electric motors. The Japanese carmaker said that the system switches to this mode when the remaining charge in the battery falls below a predetermined level and when more powerful performance is required, "such as accelerating to pass a vehicle or climbing a steep gradient such as a slope".
In Parallel Hybrid Mode, the four-cylinder gasoline engine provides most of the power to motivate the vehicle, but is assisted by the electric motors whenever required. This mode is usually selected for higher-speed driving.
Mitsubishi said that it targets a combined fuel efficiency in excess of 61 km/liter (equal to 143.5 mpg US, 1.64 lt/100km and 172 mpg UK) on the Japanese driving cycle, though keep in mind that this figure includes the use of the battery. The crossover's driving range is said to exceed 880 kilometers or 547 miles.
The company also points out some of the advantages of the Twin Motor 4WD system:
"In addition to decreased friction loss Twin Motor 4WD delivers better response and finer control than conventional mechanical systems. It accomplishes this without a propeller shaft or other mechanical components seen in conventional mechanical systems. The Twin Motor 4WD system is integrated with Mitsubishi's well-proven S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) integrated vehicle dynamics control system to deliver high levels of stability and all-terrain performance and ensure the vehicle behaves just as the driver intends it to."
The Japanese carmaker expects to launch the Outlander PHEV in the Japanese market in early 2013 and then sequentially roll out the model in Europe, North America, and other markets around the world.
For the record, the regular 2013 Outlander with 2.0-liter petrol and 2.2-liter diesel engines went on sale in Russia in July and is to be introduced in other European markets from September, and in North America either towards the end of the year or in early 2013.
Thanks to 福田隆二 for the tip!