Warning! Formidable Japanese electric vehicles (EVs) are coming to a dealer near you this year.
After reviewing European and American EVs last year, I was offered the Mitsubishi XLS SUV plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) to test during my holiday break.
The XLS currently retails at $50,990 plus on-road costs (NZD). This puts it right in the sweet spot for businesses looking for a workhorse, four-wheel drive SUV.
Unlike two years ago when high prices and low residuals were a real turnoff for businesses, electric and hybrid SUVs are now in high demand on the second-hand market, and my industry contracts confirm premium trade in prices and strong lease residuals.
Lease companies’ reservations about financing EVs and PHEVs have largely evaporated.
The XLS combines a 2l petrol engine with twin electric motors, giving you a theoretical fuel efficiency of 1.7 litres of petrol per 100km travelled. In theory if you were running the electric motor only and never exceeded its specified range of 54km, then this incredible efficiency is quite possible.
However, in Auckland motorway traffic, I found a single tank of gas and a $1.50 overnight charge got me well over 700km or 6.43 litres of fuel for every 100km travelled: still an excellent range result by any measure.
When I drained the EV battery the XLS automatically switched to petrol power. It also offered the option of “charge” mode that used the petrol engine, engine braking and inertia, to recharge the electric motor. This proved more expensive in fuel usage but was convenient, simple and practical – Japanese manufacturing at its most pragmatic.
Charging has often been a bone of contention for users hooked on the convenience of petrol stations. This PHEV delivered a fast charge to 80 per cent in just 20 minutes. As fast chargers become more common the convenience gap should be a minor irritant for most users. We will have to alter our behaviours a little though.
Mitsubishi now offers a 160,000km, five-year warranty on the motor and an eight-year warranty on the battery. This largely matches the warranties offered for their petrol and diesel options.
So enough of the technicalities. What did I and the love of my life think of this Japanese invader? For me, words like practical, common sense, hardworking and efficient come to mind. My beloved liked the excellent visibility from both front and rear seats, the sensitive steering and braking and the fact that the vehicle looked stylish without losing its fundamental functionality.
We both loved the spacious leg room and fold-down seats for carrying luggage, samples and tools in the back.
We didn’t like the oddly small driver’s rear vision mirror. The acceleration and sustained performance that we have come to expect from electric vehicles wasn’t to the fore either. Not that the XLS was underpowered, it’s just that when you are used to the romance and zip of a pure electric motor the hybrid felt a bit like kissing your sibling: underwhelming.
Overall, I really liked this solid addition to the SUV fleet.
The years 2019 and 2020 will see big moves from Asian manufacturers into the EV market. Soon the combined price, residuals, fuel efficiency, reliability and convenient charging of hybrid and pure electric vehicle categories will make the business case very compelling for New Zealand enterprises looking to drive out costs, reduce capital deployed and contribute to a sustainable world for future generations.
Businesses will do well to keep a close eye on how they can reap the benefits.
I gave the Mitsubishi XLS PHEV a sturdy 7.5 out of 10.