With the dual-cab ute segment booming in Australia and the threat of internal-combustion sales coming to an end overseas in the coming decade, car brands are looking to sustainable technologies to keep commercial segments moving.
Speaking to CarExpert at the recent Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid launch, Outlander chief engineer Kentaro Honda reiterated to us that everything is on the table at the moment for the next-generation Triton – the diesel version of which will premiere in early 2023.
“Our strategy or concept on PHEV is good for C- or D-segment SUV and perhaps for small cars,” Honda-san said.
“But, plug-in [hybrid] EV is better for SUV or truck category, and maybe hybrid-based… The basic components [for a truck] can use both PHEV or hybrid.”
Honda-san went on to say that Mitsubishi was currently studying which application would work best for Triton – meaning full PHEV, or a regular hybrid using similar components but with a smaller battery.
Mitsubishi leads the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s plug-in hybrid strategy, so there’s a chance that any plug-in hybrid technology developed for the Triton would be carried over to the Nissan Navara, which will share a platform with the Triton for its next generation.
“There are so many technologies, hybrid technologies, and our concept is basically based on a PHEV system, we can modify it to become hybrid, so it’s very much different from, for example, Toyota or other European brands,” confirmed Honda-san.
One of the biggest challenges with implementing a plug-in hybrid drivetrain for a dual-cab ute is the added weight batteries and motors add to the total mass of the vehicle.
Every kilogram added to the total mass can affect everything from handling through to towing and load carrying capacity, so there’s every chance brands will do down the path of hybrid or mild-hybrid technology before they dive deep into plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle tech.
Honda-san’s comments follow those from Mitsubishi Australia head of product strategy Owen Thomson, speaking with CarExpert late last year.
“It’s clear that some time during this decade there’s going to be all forms of electrification of utes, it’s just a matter of what form that will take and when it happens,” he said.
“It’s been under consideration from day one in the Triton plan.”
Plug-in hybrids offer daily EV capacity with a combustion engine-generator backup for longer trips, while the onboard battery facilitates vehicle-to-grid charging and can theoretically power tools and other equipment on board.
“Different user groups could take advantage of it, but for other user groups it may be a disadvantage, particularly given the customer base and distribution of the buyers through Australia,” Mr Thomson added.
“The electrification of a pickup vehicle is a very interesting question.”
Mitsubishi says PHEVs are a crucial gateway to the wider take-up of full-electric vehicles (EVs) in the Australian market.