A lot of car manufacturers out there are making noise about electrification and dedicating more research and development for a plug-in future. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of that progress in the country. Let’s be frank about this: When it comes to hybrid and electric cars, we’re still far from mainstream acceptance.
You can mention several factors why hybridization and electrification haven’t caught on. Despite that, it hasn’t stopped automakers from bringing in such cars. Toyota has been trying for decades, and so has Honda.
Enter the Outlander PHEV
A few years ago, Mitsubishi launched the Outlander PHEV or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. It aims to offer plug-in electric mobility without the fear of getting stranded at the side of the road because it still has an engine.
If that sounds like the best of best of both worlds, then it’s exactly what Mitsubishi wants you to think. With the Outlander PHEV, you can charge up the battery so you can do your daily commute without using a drop of fuel and use a little bit of gas on the way home if the battery runs out of juice. But that got us thinking: How far can it go on pure battery power?
According to European testing cycles, the Outlander PHEV can drive up to 42km before the engine swoops in to keep the car running. However, those tests are performed in a lab that simulates real-world conditions. A lab can’t account for unpredictable changes such as congestion and weather. Curious to see if the Outlander PHEV can, at the very least, get near the test cycle result, we devised a little test for it.
The test route
The plan was to give the Outlander PHEV a full charge at a charging station, then drive it as far as we can before the engine kicked in. The route we chose was EDSA with our starting point at The Podium. From there, we’d go straight to the Monumento rotonda in Caloocan, then head southbound to the Globe rotonda at the Mall of Asia.
All in all, the total test distance is 38km, including the trip from The Podium to the northernmost point of EDSA. That’s cutting it close to the European test cycle. Given how unpredictable traffic is along EDSA, the Outlander PHEV’s battery has quite the challenge ahead of it.
We arrived at The Podium to plug in the Outlander, but almost immediately, there was a hiccup. The charger in the mall didn’t suit the socket fitted to the Mitsubishi. And there lies the first problem of charging in the country: Not all stations have the right plugs.
See, there are different kinds of plugs for electric cars the same way there are different cables for smartphones. If you have micro-USB, USB Type-C, and lightning for mobile devices, you have Type 1, Type 2, CCS, and CHAdeMO. We’ll spare you the nerdy bits for some other time, but this little snag put a dent on our drive.
And then, one of the building administrators of The Podium saw us and asked us if we were able to use it. We said that it wasn’t compatible with the Outlander PHEV, and explained that some manufacturers have different ports fitted to their cars. Happily, the administrator took in our feedback and mentioned that they will bring it up to higher management and come up with a solution.
Fingers crossed SM implements these soon so more cars (and other electric vehicles) can utilize their facilities. It was a shame we weren’t able to plug in the mall’s charger, as one of the mall’s guards said we would’ve been the first to use it. They were pretty excited about it, too.
Second time’s the charm?
Still, that didn’t stop us from continuing with the experiment, but we had to charge someplace else. So off we went to Unioil EDSA Guadalupe with our fingers crossed that its charging station works.
After a short drive, we made it and asked the service crew how to use their car charger. As it turns out, they had to turn it on and boot the entire thing just for us. It took a while, but the folks from Unioil got it started, and we were charging away. Given everything we’d experienced even before the test started, we can understand why consumers are reluctant to go electric or semi-electric. There’s the compatibility issues and the general lack of charging stations around the metro. If you’re further out, good luck.
While charging, we discovered another thing about the Outlander PHEV: If you use a rapid charger, it maxes out at 80% and calls it a day. Since there was no charger that fitted the Outlander’s other port, we had no choice but to perform the test without full charge. Again, it highlights the plug compatibility issues that come with electrification. Still, it could’ve been worse. The chargers might not have worked at all and forced us to abandon our drive.
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On the road
At 80% charge, the Outlander’s on-board computer displayed just 22km of battery range. That’s far below the test cycle’s result and short of the trip’s estimated distance. Making matters worse was the bottleneck at the Shaw underpass. Right there, we lost 2km of range when we reached SM Megamall.
Thankfully, traffic freed up a little bit after that, and the batteries were holding their charge better than expected. From Cubao to Monumento, the battery retained 16-17km of range. By the time we reached the rotonda up north, we were feeling confident that there was a good chance the Outlander could make it all the way to the Mall of Asia. After all, the computer was a touch pessimistic about range, and the car was regaining some of the lost charge through braking energy.
Then things got worse
However, our southbound drive had more difficulties along the way. The bottleneck at Muñoz slowed down progress, and roadworks by the MRT North Avenue Station ground us to a halt. But there was more to come when we got to Kamuning. Repairs to the flyover meant we had to slog through the jam at a snail’s pace to reach Cubao. And just when we thought the worst was over, the progress from Cubao to Ortigas was slow and tedious thanks to the sudden weather change. The bursts of rain brought traffic to a near-standstill, eating up our battery life and shortening the range.
By the time we reached EDSA Shrine, things weren’t looking so good. Our optimism was dampened by what was displayed on the car’s computer. We had just 7km left on battery power, and the Globe rotonda was still over 11km away. At that point, we’d be happy to reach the Rockwell area given how bad the traffic was because of the rain.
Despite the slow crawl, we still managed to reach Makati on electric power, but we only had just 2km of range left. At least we were past the Unioil charging station that served as our starting point. So yes, you can run EDSA in one direction at 80% charge with the Outlander with a bit of juice left. At that point, we had traveled about 33km. But the bigger challenge is reaching the southernmost point of EDSA, and it seemed unlikely when we reached Magallanes. The computer displayed 1km left of battery power.
Did we make it?
The moment our wheels touched Pasay soil, the range dropped to zero, and yet the car still kept running on electric mode. We were now in uncharted territory. We had no idea how much further we could go, or when the engine would cut in. The traffic in the area didn’t help, and neither did the traffic light at the EDSA-Taft intersection. But by some miracle, the car was still clinging on to electric power despite showing zero on the display.
But just a few hundred meters from the previous intersection, the engine kicked in. That was it. The battery had depleted after 38km in moderate to heavy traffic. We were a few traffic lights away from our goal. Admittedly, it was frustrating that we were so close to the rotonda. Had we been luckier at the traffic lights, then maybe we could’ve made it. Nonetheless, nearly 40km of driving without using a single drop of fuel is an achievement.
What’s even more impressive is that we were just at 80% charge. If the car’s battery had been full, we might have reached the rotonda. We might have made it back to the starting point if traffic conditions had been favorable. Still, 38km is close to the European cycle claim of 42km, and that’s despite the battery not being 100% charged.
The test also made us realize another thing: We’re not just years behind automotive electrification. The snags we experienced in the morning were proof of that. We laud SM and Unioil for making an effort, but so much work lies ahead of us.
The lack of EV infrastructure and incentives isn’t motivating the buying public to, at the very least, consider a hybrid for their next vehicle. If you look at some of our neighbors in the region, they have made significant progress over the years. At least there is some movement in the executive and legislative branches.
Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles shouldn’t be reserved for the privileged and the wealthy. Mitsubishi has done all it could to make the Outlander PHEV’s price as attainable as possible, but current legislation simply doesn’t allow for that.
Because of that, this plug-in hybrid crossover retails for P2,998,000—heaps more expensive than the larger and more practical Montero Sport 4WD. That’s a shame since this generation of Outlander PHEV could be purchased in Japan for about half the price.
Heck, the all-new Outlander PHEV over there is just a hair under P1,800,000 at current conversion rates. If that was the case here, then more of us can enjoy even greater efficiency in our cars. Besides, gas prices are eye-wateringly expensive these days.
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