In 2023, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are often regarded as a backward technology. They have a limited electric range compared to most of today’s battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). While BEVs can travel longer distances solely on electric power, PHEVs rely heavily on their internal combustion engines for longer journeys, and sometimes even for shorter ones. This dependency on the combustion engine leads to greater fuel consumption and emissions, undermining the environmental benefits typically associated with electric vehicles if driven on gas power enough.

Recent data has raised concerns about the actual pollution levels of PHEVs in the real world. Some studies suggest that PHEVs may pollute more than their official test results indicate. This discrepancy in pollution levels has prompted debates about the true environmental impact of these vehicles, further diminishing their appeal. But, other studies indicate that PHEVs do, in fact, usually get plugged in at night, so the verdict on their actual pollution is still out and will be for some time.

Environmental issues aside, most PHEVs are very complex machines. Not only do they usually have all of the moving parts and maintenance requirements of a traditional ICE-only vehicle, but they also have all of the parts that an EV does. This double complexity leads to higher costs, higher likelihood of mechanical or electronic failures, and difficulty competing with modern BEVs on overall cost.

But, Mitsubishi is pressing forward with PHEVs. The company will showcase the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid at the upcoming Electrify Expo in Redmond, Washington. This award-winning SUV has received rave reviews from media and customers, even if many EV fans aren’t fans of it. You can see it on display and even take it for a test drive at every Electrify Expo event in 2023. The next show will be held in Redmond, Wash., at Maymoor Park on September 9-10, with subsequent visits to Miami and Austin, Texas.

The company is clearly still very optimistic about the vehicle, too.

“Electrify Expo is the perfect venue to introduce the award-winning 2023 Outlander Plug-in Hybrid to customers looking to make an initial move into electrified mobility,” said Mark Chaffin, MMNA President and CEO. “As a leader in electrification, the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid is a logical first step for many consumers motivated by environmental awareness, but who may not be ready to go all-in on battery-only power. The 2023 Outlander Plug-in Hybrid blends the clean and quiet motoring of an electric vehicle with the range and ease of refueling of gasoline. When customers see the exquisite exterior and interior styling coupled with the advanced technology and ease in which the vehicle transitions from the respective powertrains, we are confident they’ll want an Outlander in their driveway.”

And, they may be right. Since its launch in December 2022, the 2023 Outlander Plug-in Hybrid has received numerous awards and media recognition for its stylish design, impressive driving dynamics, Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel drive system, and seamless integration of electric and gasoline propulsion.

The company also brags on the value delivered. The 2023 Outlander Plug-in Hybrid ES starts at $39,845, while the top-tier 40th Anniversary Edition is priced at $49,995. Mitsubishi Motors’ flagship model in the U.S. is a seven-passenger vehicle that the company says offers the best equipment and connectivity.

The specifications are also interesting. It provides 38 miles of electric range and up to 420 miles overall range. Notably, SEL and above models are the only mass-market plug-in hybrid EVs with DC fast-charging capability, allowing the 20kWh battery pack to reach 80% capacity in just 38 minutes (no information about the charging curve was provided), but this power is delivered via a CHAdeMO connector, which is becoming increasingly hard to find in working order (especially at Electrify America stations).

Why Is Mitsubishi Doing This?

Offering a PHEV in 2023 does seem pretty behind the curve. Not only have most companies (including GM, which used to really push the technology) moved on, but offering a CHAdeMO plug to charge the vehicle with at DC fast chargers just seems like a decision that isn’t based on the facts on the ground.

Even worse, the pricing is right up there with a Tesla Model Y, or comparable EVs from other manufacturers, so it’s not really a money-saving move to buy one of these. That having been said, it does offer a little more space and seating. Instead of being compact and cramped like a 7-seat Model Y, the Outlander PHEV offers seven people a lot more interior room, which could leave some market space open for the vehicle.

Another thing that may make the Outlander PHEV a reasonable choice is the state of charging infrastructure in the United States. While Tesla’s charging network is pretty reliable and easy to use, the other charging stations out there are having a lot more problems. You’re unlikely to get stranded still, but long waits, slower charging than advertised on the sides of stations, and the need to switch stalls due to failures are all common complaints.

But, if you’re driving one of these vehicles, you could just keep driving on gas should you encounter a busted one-and-only CHAdeMO port, so there’s that.

But, the big reasons is probably more about Mitsubishi than it is about the facts on the ground. Even for 2024, the Outlander PHEV will remain the only Mitsubishi vehicle with any electric range. Everything else is ICE-only. This tells us that Mitsubishi hasn’t done what other manufacturers have done and jumped in on BEVs. The company likely doesn’t have designs ready, doesn’t have battery supplies figured out, and just isn’t ready to make the leap.

But, the Outlander PHEV might be able to buy it some time, given the problems the US has. A local EV that can run on gasoline on road trips is still very useful in rural areas, and for anybody trying to take road trips in something other than a Tesla. But, these good facts can evaporate quickly as NEVI (Infrastructure Bill) funding leads to more stations and everyone else starts trying to get their act together.

If I was working in Mitsubishi’s PR department instead of writing for CleanTechnica, I’d be concerned if the company wasn’t doing something behind the scenes to get some BEVs in the lineup!

Featured image provided by Mitsubishi.


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