Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) sales leader Mitsubishi says PHEVs are a crucial gateway to the wider take-up of full-electric vehicles (EVs) in the Australian market.

    The company cites a survey it commissioned of existing Outlander PHEV owners that found 83 per cent of them intend to buy an EV as their next car, which is interesting since EV market penetration remains low here.

    Industry numbers show Mitsubishi Australia has sold about 3800 Outlander PHEVs since 2014.

    If the survey data is correct there are thus around 3150 potential EV buyers in the subset either already driving one, or looking to do so.

    MORE: 2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV price and specs

    By contrast, the same survey found just 33 per cent of Outlander petrol and diesel drivers would consider an EV as their next car.

    The survey conducted by Potentiate and commissioned by Mitsubishi Australia interviewed a pool of 844 people who own Outlanders, about 200 of whom had the PHEV version.

    The study supports similar research conducted by Kadence International on behalf in Mitsubishi Motors UK in 2020, which found 70 per cent of Outlander PHEV buyers would go EV next time, and that 48 per cent already considered an EV but had range anxiety at the time.

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    Further interesting findings from the Australian market survey include:

    • The average respondent drove 155km per week, with 131km of those in EV mode
    • 73 per cent of Outlander PHEV drivers plug in once a day or more often, with 99 per cent using home charging points most of the time
    • A further 10 per cent use work charging points

    “The data indicates that PHEVs provide a catalyst for future EV uptake by helping familiarise consumers with electric vehicles and make them more likely to purchase another one,” the company claims.

    “It is clear that plug-in hybrid technology is a critical factor in encouraging drivers along the path towards of low and zero emissions technology.”

    Mitsubishi Australia has just announced pricing for its second PHEV, the Eclipse Cross, which kicks off at $46,490 before on-road costs for the base ES grade and climbs to $53,990 for the Exceed flagship. An Exceed AWD petrol costs $40,790 by contrast.

    It pairs a 2.4-litre petrol engine with two electric drive motors and a 13.8kWh battery pack that can be charged at a powerpoint or fast charger.

    The AWD crossover can drive a claimed 55km all-electric (NEDC), before switching to petrol power.

    In the real world this EV range is likely to be lower, somewhere around 45km.

    The more advanced (and expensive) second-generation Outlander PHEV will arrive in quarter-one of 2022.

    The company does not yet offer any EVs in Australia, but by 2030 it has promised there will be “an EV, PHEV or hybrid variant for each segment in which it operates”, including utes. Half its sales by then are expected to be electrified.

    As reported by us previously, Mitsubishi sees genuine volume potential in PHEV drivetrains in Australia moving forward, with CEO Shaun Westcott calling plug-in hybrid vehicles an “untapped opportunity”.

    “The current Outlander is one of the biggest-selling PHEVs in Europe. Europe leads, we lag in terms of PHEV take-up in Australia,” he said.

    “We believe there’s an opportunity for us in that to… talk to our market about our product offering and how competent it is – and how well-recognised it is in other markets – using new Outlander to take that to another level,” he added.

    As it stands, PHEVs have failed to achieve cut-through in Australia compared to conventional hybrids which are cheaper and never need to be plugged in. However, more brands are launching PHEVs and awareness tends to grow acceptance.

    Competitors to Mitsubishi either on sale now or coming soon include PHEV versions of the MG HS, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Niro and Sorento, Peugeot 3008, Ford Escape, Mini Countryman, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Volvo XC40, and Cupra Leon and Formentor.

    Another interesting angle is the Eclipse Cross PHEV’s (and Outlander PHEV’s) readiness for vehicle-to-home (V2H) and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capabilities.

    Using Mitsubishi’s Dendo (“electric”) system, a V2H/V2G-enabled PHEV has the potential to power a home or business, or send charge into the grid.

    Mitsubishi Motors Australia says it has been “continuing to build partnerships” with non-governmental agencies such as Disaster Relief Australia.

    “During bushfires, floods and other natural disasters, PHEVs will enable regional and rural areas to have an even playing field when it comes to having fast and continuous access to reliable backup power,” it claims.

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    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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