The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is still the UK’s best-selling plug-in hybrid SUV, with 3,167 sales from January to the end of October 2020. The pioneering model also remains one of Europe’s favourites, amassing 20,339 sales across the continent in the first three quarters of 2020.
In the UK, sales of PHEVs have nearly doubled compared to the same period last year to 50,052 (SMMT), with the Outlander topping the SUV charts and still on the podium across all plug-in hybrid competitors. Demand for PHEV technology is surging across Europe too, with more competitors than ever coming to the segment leading to some 340,000 registrations in the first nine months of the year – almost treble the number registered during the same period in 2019.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was in second place overall across Europe at the end of September, hot on the heels of the Ford Kuga which was only 660 units ahead at the time.
The increasing popularity of PHEVs is understandable. Across Europe governments are incentivising the technology to lower emissions and accelerate the move to full electrification, tackling the natural reluctance to give up familiar internal combustion technology for one around which there are still many uncertainties, not least driving range and how and where to recharge.
And, of course, EVs are still expensive compared to equivalent petrol or diesel cars, with those at the more affordable end of the market not yet capable of offering enough driving range where people feel comfortable having that as the main or only household vehicle. That’s where PHEVs come in.
Should PHEVs be incentivised? Does anyone charge them anyway?
Absolutely. Mitsubishi Motors in the UK commissioned two independently executed studies in 2019 and 2020 to understand the attitudes and actions of both our PHEV and ICE customers and in both cases the feedback from PHEV drivers was conclusive: 92% charge up multiple times per week:
How often, if at all, do you charge your Mitsubishi under normal circumstances (i.e. before the current COVID-19 restrictions took effect)?
|Twice per day or more||12%|
|Once a day||51%|
|2-3 times per week||29%|
|Once a week||4%|
|Once every 2 weeks||1%|
|Once every 3-4 weeks||1%|
|Less often than monthly||1%|
So what? They’ve got a tiny range anyway.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has a WLTP EV range of 28 miles which seems like a small proportion of its total 370 mile range but it’s further than most people drive on a normal day. The average daily commute in England and Wales is less than 10 miles each way, with PHEV drivers telling us in our most recent survey that almost three quarters of their commute, and almost 85% of their errand and school runs, were driven in EV mode.
These drives often happen at times of high traffic volumes and in built-up areas where ICE cars are at their least efficient and air quality is at its worst. Even on longer journeys, drivers saw benefits in terms of economy and running costs with their PHEVs operating almost one third of the time in electric mode. These are all miles that would otherwise be driven in an ICE-powered vehicle producing emissions practically the entire time.
On average, how much of each journey type do you estimate you drive on electric power (EV mode)?
|Commuting (to or from work)||72.2|
|Running errands / school runs||84.3|
|Holidays / weekend trips / leisure outings||32.8|
Does that get us far enough down the road to zero?
The road to carbon neutrality is a long one but PHEVs represent a significant step in the right direction that wouldn’t be happening otherwise. Our 2019 survey revealed that customers drive half their average mileage in electric mode – with mean vehicle mileage across our surveyed PHEV owners now at 33,700 miles, that’s a lot of fuel and, as a result, a lot of tailpipe emissions saved.
But just as importantly, PHEVs are also accelerating an attitudinal shift for the future. In our 2020 survey, 48% of PHEV drivers said they considered a fully electric vehicle before choosing a PHEV, compared to just 9% of ICE drivers. However, although 55% of ICE drivers didn’t consider any other form of alternative fuel to the one they currently drive, 23% did consider a PHEV which suggests it is still the most attractive route out of ICE ownership.
More significantly, 70% of PHEV owners are now considering a fully electric vehicle for the next purchase, indicating that the PHEV experience has made them more comfortable and confident in electric motoring. Compared that to the consideration rate amongst ICE drivers – just 27% are considering an EV next.
Once again, though, 34% told us they are considering a PHEV next which again highlights the importance of PHEVs as a transitional technology
Which (if any) of the following alternative engine types did you consider, when deciding which car to purchase? (To mitigate confusion, respondents were not offered their own engine type as an option. They could select multiple alternative options)
|Alternative Powertrain Types Considered||PHEV Driver||ICE Driver|
|Non plug-in hybrid (short electric range: 1-2 miles)||26%||9%|
|PHEV (mid-distance electric range: 20-50 miles)||0%*||23%|
|Fully electric vehicle (electric range: 50+ miles)||48%||9%|
|Hydrogen fuel cell||4%||2%|
|None of the above||19%||55%|
Won’t having more PHEVs on the road just clog up the charging network?
In our survey, 97% of owners prefer to charge at home with no more than 10% electing to charge at work; in car parks; at shopping centres; using on street car parks or in motorway services. They can also store their electricity for deployment in clean air zones so they can keep urban chargers free for pure EV drivers.
And where do you charge your Mitsubishi under normal circumstances (i.e. before the current COVID-19 restrictions took effect)? Tick all that apply.
|On-street charge point||3%|
|Car park charge point||10%|
|Motorway charge point||7%|
|Shopping centre charge point||9%|
|Other (please specify)||3%|
With more people now opting for PHEVs for the first time, there isn’t just the benefit of lower emissions and cleaner air right now, it is also paving the way for a significant proportion of drivers to adopt carbon-neutral mobility much sooner than they might otherwise do.