By Paul Clarke
Model/Engine size: Mitsubishi Outlander GX4hs 2.0 PHEV Auto
Fuel: Petrol-Electric Plug-in Hybrid
Fuel economy combined: 156.9 mpg
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) needs to be charged to make it a viable car choice – so how easy is it to do this?
We’re now over halfway through our six month long-term test of the Outlander PHEV and we’ve already established that if you want to get anywhere close to the official 156.9mpg figure then you need to drive it mainly on electric rather than petrol power. So how does the charging work?
There are a number of options for recharging, but the best solution is to have a home charge point. A fast home charger is how the Outlander has been charged most of the time – but not all of the time – as we’ll see later. Motoring journalists have been able to take up an offer for a home charge point, and one that was the faster of two choices – a 7kW charger rather than a 3.7kW unit. The 3.7kW unit is supposed to offer up to 15 miles of range per hour and is available from around £390 after the government OLEV grant. The 7kW charger is designed to give up to 30 miles of range per hour and is available from £485 after the grant. A 22kW charge point is also available from £1650, giving up to 80 miles of range per hour.
Using a home charge point means that you get home and simply plug the car in. It then charges in just a few hours. Next time you want to drive anywhere, the chances are that it will be fully charged. This means that you can enjoy an official range of 32.5 miles on the Outlander’s battery. However we’ve had the car on test over winter, and the real-life range during this period has been hovering between 19 and 22 miles, although at the time of writing the display is showing a predicted range of 26 miles – which is the best we’ve seen over 14 weeks. So if your regular driving pattern is less than 20-30 miles between recharges, and you can recharge using a home charger, then you’ll be able to achieve impressive miles per gallon figures.
The story could stop there, but it doesn’t. We’ve had the Outlander on test during a period when a major house building project has been underway. For four months, we were living in the house as it was being demolished/re-built around us. However for the last five weeks we’ve had to move out while the builders moved in. This has resulted in subsequently living in two different rental properties. Neither of these had charge points.
The first property had an outhouse and we were able to charge using a cable supplied with the car which had a three-pin plug. This worked, however it took much longer to charge the car – you needed to leave the car overnight rather than being able to fully charge it in a few hours. It shows that the Outlander can be charged from a standard plug socket if a home charge point isn’t available – however the official advice is to get an electrician to check your domestic supply if you plan to do this.
The second temporary property was more of a challenge. It had no external socket, and the car parking was too far away to run a charging lead from the car through a window into the property. Don’t try this at home, but we’ve heard many stories about people using extension leads to connect the car cable to a socket. We’ve never done this in almost ten years of testing electric cars, but, faced with the alternative prospect of having zero battery charge, we were curious to see if this would work. So the extension lead was rolled out, connected to the charge cable, and lo and behold, the car started charging. Again, it took overnight before a full charge was achieved. So a cable connected to an extension lead did work, however this is absolutely not recommended – and having an extension lead connected outside in the rain is never a good idea.
Apart from home charging, you can also charge plug-in cars at public recharging points. Our Outlander came with a second charging cable to allow you to hook up to public charge points. Aside from the two cables, there are two recharging sockets on the car – one is for a home charger, the second – a CHAdeMO connection – is for public rapid charge stations. A DC rapid charge socket can provide an 80% charge of an EV in 30 minutes.
We’ve been completely open to try public charging, but in over three months with the car we’ve never been at a halt at a location with a public charge point.
Lots of reports have been written on the subject of public charging, and they all show that the vast majority of people with plug-in cars charge at home rather than using the public infrastructure. When we did try and embark on a journey using public charging with a Renault ZOE, we had a mixed experience. The first charge point that we arrived at didn’t work. The next charge point had a diesel Volvo parked in the bay. The third point worked. So our journey matched that of many Green Car Guide visitors who contact us – there are mixed experiences of public charge points.
Overall, it’s an easier experience plugging the car in at home than driving into a garage, filling with fuel and paying for it. The experience of filling the Outlander with petrol is made more difficult the first time you try it, as no-one who has driven our test car has been able to find the mechanism to unlock the fuel filler flap. It’s actually a black lever tucked away in black carpet in the corner of the dark driver’s footwell between the base of the seat and the door – and it’s impossible to find. To open the charge socket you just push it like most other cars and it springs open – we’re not sure why the petrol flap isn’t opened in the same way.
You can set the car to charge automatically using the Outlander app, however we never quite managed to get this app paired with the vehicle. The ideal is that electric cars are charged between midnight and 6am to reduce the load on the national and especially on the local electricity grid at peak times, rather than plugging them in when you get home at around 6pm. Charging during the night should also be cheaper.
One final point to note is that refuelling the Outlander with electricity is much cheaper than refuelling with petrol – perhaps around one-fifth of the cost. A complete charge for the Outlander takes 9.8KWh of electricity. Based on a cost of 10p per KWh (an average between peak and off-peak electricity costs) a full charge would cost 98p. But we’ll come back to that in a later report.
It’s worth noting that not all plug-in vehicles have the same type of connectors. Luckily, our home charge point was the right one for the Outlander, which has a type 1 charging port. If you buy a German plug-in car, then you’ll need a charge point with a different (type 2) connector. If you buy a Tesla, you’ll need a different charge point connector again. You’ll need a type 2 to type 1 charge lead to charge the Outlander from a type 2 public charge point.
In our previous report the Outlander’s real-life fuel economy was 65.4mpg – this had dropped due to a week or so without the home recharging point. With even worse access to charging over the last two weeks, we’re now down to 59.9mpg. We set out to try and achieve good economy figures from the Outlander, and while we were able to regularly charge with a fast home charger we were doing reasonably well. However for a two-tonne, two-litre petrol 4×4, 59.9mpg is still impressive.
On which note, our next report looks at the NEDC fuel economy test and how the Outlander’s official 156.9mpg is calculated.
Real-life economy: 59.9 mpg after 14 weeks
NEDC electric driving range: 32.5 miles
Real-life electric driving range: 20miles after 14 weeks
Official CO2 emissions: 42 g/km
Green rating: VED band A (£0)
Weight: 1,845 kg
Company car tax liability (2015/16): 5%
Price: £35,999 (after the current UK government Plug-in Car Grant of £5,000).
Insurance group: 22E
Power: 200 bhp
Max speed: 106 mph
0-62mph: 11.0 seconds
Torque: 385 Nm