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Now US Outlander PHEV is delayed because of battery shortage

First there is all the drama of the battery fires. Now, Mitsubishi says the Outlander PHEV production is way behind because of a battery shortage, likely partly caused by the production delay while they investigated the fires.

Mitsubishi has been ramping up the production of their battery packs from 2000 units per month, to 4000 units per month. Now they plan a further production increase to 5000 units per month in April 2014.

The increase will allow Mitsubishi to produce around 60,000 plug-in vehicles per year, up from the 30,000 they are making a year right now.

Since the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle has been selling like hotcakes, and using up all available battery production, Mitsubishi has decided to delay the US launch until 2015 when battery production has reached full capacity.

Mitsubishi has already sold over 11,500 of the Outlander PHEVs worldwide since the January 2013 introduction.

After 5 months, production restarts for Outlander PHEV

It’s been almost 5 months since Mitsubishi temporarily cancelled production on the Outlander Plug-in hybrid. In case you don’t remember why, they cancelled production because of 2 cases of the vehicle’s battery pack overheating, and in one case, causing a small fire. Both incidents happened at Japanese dealerships, and no one was hurt.

After a month of investigation, Mitsubishi determined the batteries had become compromised during a screening test process when some of the cells had been dropped. The fall caused damage that lead the batteries to be more susceptible to overheating. 5 months later, Mitsubishi has announced it has come up with a new screening process. Everyone has been trained, equipment has been swapped out, and the production lines are ready to roll.

Now, Mitsubishi has to work through the almost 18,000 order backlog. In September, a second facility will come online and production will double to 4,000 units a month. At that rate, it shouldn’t be too long before Mitsubishi is able to fill all of their orders for the 2014 Outlander PHEV.

Mitsubishi Outlander traction battery

Auto Zeitung of Germany test drives the Outlander PHEV

Titled “The song of a low-emission future”, the 2013 Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle was reviewed by Auto Zeitung. The Outlander PHEV system consists of a 121 horsepower 4 cylinder gasoline engine, coupled with a 70 kw generator. There are 2 electric motors rated at 82kW each – one drives the front wheels and the other drives the rear wheels.

A lithium ion battery pack is located under the floor of the vehicle, and doesn’t take up any cargo space thanks in part to Mitsubishi engineering the new redesigned 2013 Outlander to have a plug-in hybrid option drivetrain right from the start (unlike other gasoline vehicles that are converted, and batteries take up the trunk space).

The Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in is the first mass produced SUV with a plug. It’s also the first all wheel drive plug-in hybrid electric. The front wheels are driven by the gasoline engine and front electric motor, and the rear axle is driven solely by the rear electric motor. Power distribution between the front and rear axles is electronically controlled and allows a power-split of up to 100% to one of the axles. If the driver select off-road mode, then the power split it 50/50.

Due to the extra weight of the battery pack and electric motors, the plug-in hybrid Outlander sits about 30 millimeters lower to the ground than it’s gasoline brothers.

Regen is available in all 3 driving modes, and the intensity of the regeneration is selectable via paddles on the steering wheel. Selecting the most intense regen makes going downhill feel like traditional engine braking in a standard transmission vehicle.

According to the article, the 2013 Outlander PHEV is headed for launch in Europe in the summer, with prices starting at 41,000 €.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, i-MiEV production suspended

After 2 fires in Mitsubishi electric vehicles, Mitsubishi has suspended production until the cause of the fires is investigated.

The first fire happened on March 18th, and it was a battery pack of a Mitsubishi i-MiEV that caught on fire at Mitsubishi’s Mizushima factory in Japan. A 98 minute fire was caused by the battery pack overheating – Mitsubishi says it may have been due to a recent change in manufacturing process of the battery supplier. As a result of the fire, Mitsubishi is calling i-MiEV fleet operators whose batteries were made under the same process as those that caused the overheating and led to the fire.

The second fire occurred on March 21 when a battery pack in a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV overheated at a Yokohama dealership. Mitsubishi says 80 cells within the battery overheated which caused damage in one of the three blocks of cells in the battery and causing the Outlander PHEV not to be able to run. This happened during the first time they fully charged the Outlander PHEV. Mitsubishi is asking owners of the Outlander PHEV to hold off on externally charging their battery packs until a further investigation can be conducted. Mitsubishi says the fire will not delay the launch of the Outlander plug-in hybrid’s launch in North America.

Outlander PHEV demand means delays for other countries

Current reports put Japanese order for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at around 8000 units, and demand in the Netherlands is more than 10,000. Wow. I think it’s safe to say that demand is outpacing Mitsubishi’s expectations. Mitsubishi is currently building 500 vehicles a week, so at that rate they can only fill the current demand for Japan and Netherlands by the end of the year, let alone any more need from those countries or any of the other countries Mitsubishi said would get the Outlander PHEV in late 2013 and early 2014.

Australians were supposed to get the Outlander PHEV later in 2013, but according to a recent press announcement, Mitsubishi Australia will not get the Outlander PHEV until later next year due to unexpectedly high demand in Japan. The Outlander PHEV was originally due in showrooms in Australia in May, but this announcement means it will arrive up to 8 months later than planned. This likely means the launch in the US in January 2014 will be pushed back as well.

Mitsubishi Australia’s Corporate Communications Manager told press that 2 Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrids will be in Australia for marketing and press activities in June, but the first Australian-spec versions will arrive in January 2014.

There’s also a rumor that Mitsubishi Motors Australia is lobbying hard for an entry-level of the Outlander PHEV that could mean a price of less than $40,000. If the request for an entry-level version was granted, it would bring plug-in hybrid technology to Australian customers for much less than expected. With the entry-level AWD Outlnader costing around $33,390, the Outlander PHEV ES could be priced as low as $38,990. That will make Australia’s first plug-in SUV considerably cheaper than any other PHEV currently available, including Holden’s ($59,990 plus ORCs) and Porsche’s upcoming Panamera S E-Hybrid, which will cost about $300,000.

“We don’t see it (the PHEV variant) will have a huge premium,” said Beale, head of Mitsubishi Motors Australia Communications. “We’re looking at bringing in a low to mid-spec model, and we’re negotiating a similar jump in price as the one that exists between current spec grades.”

Mitsubishi Motors Australia hopes to avoid the issues that Mitsubishi had when the i-Miev electric vehicle was launched. Initially starting at $70,000, the i-Miev now costs $48,800, and still isn’t selling as well as they would like.

The Outlander PHEV will also be available in range-topping Aspire auto form, which currently costs $43,490 in petrol guise and $45,490 with a 2.3-litre diesel engine.

To keep up to date on availability, keep your eye on the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV forum.

Outlander PHEV details for US version

This week at the New York Auto Show, Mitsubishi revealed more details about the upcoming Outlander PHEV destined for the North American markets.

The updated Outlander is now available in North America, and the plug-in hybrid version will be available in early 2014. The Outlander plug-in hybrid blends the i-MiEV technology with Super All-Wheel Control (from the Lancer Evolution) and the ruggedness and reliability that the Montero and Outlander SUV are known for. It uses an EV based drivetrain that uses a pair of electric motors and is supplemented by a front mounted 2 liter gasoline engine.

One electric motor is placed in the front, the other is in the rear of the vehicle, and each powers its own axle independently for optimal front and rear power split depending on driving needs. Both of these motors are connected to a 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that allows the Outlander PHEV to be driven up to 30 miles (in the Japanese spec Outlander on the Japanese test cycle) in pure electric mode.

The lithium-ion battery pack has been sealed in a dust and waterproof case that is located underneath the passenger compartment and between the front and rear axles. Mitsubishi was very careful and specific in making sure the battery pack and the rear electric motor do not protrude into the passenger or cargo areas. The rear electric motor is, however, placed in the space that the optional 3rd row seats would be in if a gasoline Outlander was purchased with the option – that means the Outlander PHEV is a 5 passenger only.

Refer to the diagram below to see the location of the drivetrain components on the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

New Outlander PHEV at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.

New Outlander PHEV at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.

2015 Pajero could get Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid system

“The Pajero is our flagship,” Mitsubishi Motors head of product and strategy development, Ryugo Nakao.   And soon it will be offered in a plug-in hybrid version.

The Pajero is a large SUV with world wide recognition similar to the Toyota Land Cruiser. It hasn’t been available in North America since 2006, but the redesigned 2015 Pajero may make a re-entry into the US.

At the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, Nakao said the Outlander PHEV’s plug-in hybrid system could be featured in the next generation Pajero and if it is, that would satisfy US customer’s urge for a large SUV that isn’t fuel thirsty.

There is no firm timeline for the next generation timeline, but media outlets seem to think 2015 is likely. Nakao stated the current Pajero must go on for at least 2 or 3 more years – we’re not sure why, but that’s what he said.

Nakao suggest a PHEV of the Pajero would slash consumption and emissions, while simultaneously increasing the performance of the Pajero.

Officially, Nakao only says “Plug-in hybrid is an option,” but the instant success of the Outlander PHEV in Japan, could influence the automaker’s decision when it comes time to pick powertrains for the 2015 Pajero. Japan has around 30,000 orders for the Outlander PHEV.

As Nakao stressed, the Pajero will always be a go-anywhere SUV, so even if it gets the PHEV system, it will remain 4wd capable.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV expected to be 50% of UK Outlander sales

2013 Outlander phev black

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will go on sale in the UK in the summer of 2013. Mitsubishi managing director, Lance Bradley, revealed that the Outlander PHEV could indeed outsell the diesel internal combustion engine Outlanders.

In an interview with What Car? Bradley said the Outlander PHEV could account for 50% of Outlander sales in the UK. As Bradley explains it, the 3 year cost of the Outlander PHEV will be the same as the diesel version, and after the first 3 years, the savings increase dramatically.

“When you take the purchase price and the running costs into account, it is about the same amount over a three-year period for the diesel as it is for the PHEV.” After that first 3 years, the operating costs of the PHEV are markedly lower than for the diesel Outlander.

Price reductions on the Outlander PHEV, which Bradley hinted at, will likely come soon as Mitsubishi hopes to eventually release a cheaper trim level of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

The Outlander PHEV features a 117 hp 2.0 liter gasoline engine and 2 electric motors – one powering the front wheels, and one driving the back wheels. The electric only range is quoted at 32 miles, which is impressive for a vehicle this size to say the least.

In the UK, when the Outlander PHEV goes on sale, it is expected to cost around £30,000 ($44,802 US) after incentives.

 

Outlander PHEV operation dumbed down

Mitsubishi has released a youtube video of how the plug-in hybrid system in the upcoming Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV oeprates. It’s an overly simplified video of the PHEV system, as well as several schematics an an operational summary:

The Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid EV System provides energy conservation, and at the same time offers driving that is comfortable, safe and reliable.
When driving at medium- to low-speeds, the Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid EV System stays in EV Mode, driving the vehicle through its electric motors using electricity from the drive battery.

When the remaining energy in the drive battery gets low, the Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid EV System’s switches to Series Hybrid Mode where its gasoline engine automatically starts and generates power for the electric motors.

When driving at high speeds, the Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid EV System switches to Parallel Hybrid Mode which also uses the power of the gasoline engine to drive the vehicle as its engine operates more efficiently than its electric motors at high RPM.

Furthermore, when a vehicle with the Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid EV System is decelerating, it switches to the Regenerative Mode which uses the motors as power generators to recharge the drive battery. In this way, the Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid EV System optimally controls each of the driving modes so it provides the versatility to drive as a 100% electric vehicle, use the engine to charge the drive battery, or drive using the motors and the engine at the same time, based on driving conditions.

Here is the video:

And this is an image of the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV components and locations in the vehicle

Outlander PHEV Component locations

Outlander PHEV Component locations

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in the UK

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV front three quarters

Mitsubishi UK ha announced the release of the Outlander PHEV SUV, and promised it by June 2013!

While fuel efficiency and pricing information hasn’t been released yet for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in the UK, there is a page on the Outlander PHEV Forum that has pricing news udpates. We’ll be watching it to see when pricing info is available.

Lance Bradley, the managing director of Mitsubishi Motors U.K said that the vehicle could “perhaps” achieve 150 MPG at best.

On the Japanese test cycle, the Outlander PHEV achieved 125 MPG.

According to Bradley, the pricing will be ‘highly competitive.’ He went on to say that the Outlander PHEV is the first 4wd hybrid plug-in SUV that seats seven people – which is up for debate, because everywhere else only gets a 5 seat version of the plug-in hybrid Outlander

“This will put future technology in the driveways of mums and dads today,” Paul Unerkov, Mitsubishi Australia vice-president, said. “Over a year, we aim to sell them in the thousands, not the hundreds,” he said. It is expected to go on sale in Australia in 2013, and the United States in 2014. Unkerox said that the price will range from $40,000 to $50,000 AUD, which is $41,000 to $53,000 USD.