MG Australia planning plug-in hybrid push

Carmakers are gearing up to push plug-in hybrid technology harder in Australia, led by smarter branding.

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Scott Collie
Scott Collie
Deputy Editor
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Chinese brand MG will follow Mitsubishi in trying to educate Australians about plug-in hybrids.

Unlike a Toyota-style hybrid, plug-in hybrid vehicles combine a petrol engine with a larger lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor to offer a meaningful electric range.

The MG HS plug-in hybrid packs up to 52km of WLTP-tested electric range on a full charge of its 16.6kWh battery pack.

When the battery goes flat, a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine is on hand to take over. Both power sources can also work together to offer stronger performance, and claimed combined fuel economy is 1.7 litres per 100km – contingent on having a full battery.

Step one in the MG plan to increase sales is rebranding its plug-in hybrids with the +EV badge.

“We have found the term hybrid has often been misunderstood,” said Peter Ciao, MG Motor Australia CEO.

“Referring to our vehicles as +EV, we wish to make it clear that this vehicle has two independent drive systems: one EV, one petrol,” Mr Ciao said.

This isn’t the first time MG has pointed to PHEVs as a growth market. It’s also not alone in trying to better communicate with Australians what plug-in hybrid power can do.

Mitsubishi research shows Australian consumers associate the term EV (electric vehicle) with Tesla (pure-electric cars) and Toyota (hybrid with no electric range), but not with the plug-in hybrids that sit between the two.

“Our real challenge is to educate the market as to what a PHEV really is. There’s a lot more awareness around electrification than there was,” Mitsubishi Australia head of product strategy Owen Thomson said, earlier in 2020.

Like MG, Mitsubishi Australia is putting a greater focus on the term EV with its branding. Rather than PHEV or plug-in hybrid, it’s pivoting to the term Plug-In Hybrid EV.

Mitsubishi points to PHEVs as a stepping stone for buyers interested in electric vehicles, but not yet willing to make the leap – more than 80 per cent of existing Outlander PHEV owners intend to buy an electric car as their next vehicle, according to an internal survey.

Despite the communication problems, the 2635 plug-in hybrid sales Australia has seen to date in 2021 is double the figure from the same point in 2021.

Part of that increase is down to choice. Mitsubishi has introduced the Eclipse Cross PHEV to sit below the Outlander, and Kia now has a Sorento PHEV.

Peugeot is gearing up to introduce two PHEVs to Australia, and Ford is preparing to welcome the Escape PHEV.

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Scott Collie
Scott Collie
Scott Collie is the Deputy Editor at CarExpert.
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