Few light commercials can truly claim to be unique but Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV 4Work is a shining exception. PHEV stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle and the Outlander is the only light commercial on sale today in the UK to have this low-emission, environment-friendly technology factory-fitted.
It is an initiative that should be recognised and applauded and What Van? is happy to do both. That is why we have awarded the vehicle our Green accolade for 2017.
Using the same platform as the diesel Outlander and sharing its 4x4 capability, the PHEV features a 2.0-litre petrol engine plus a traction battery that drives two permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors – one at the front of the vehicle and one at the back
The petrol engine pumps out 121hp while the motors can generate up to a maximum of 60kW apiece. Mitsubishi quotes an astonishing official economy figure of 157mpg with CO2 emissions set at 42g/km.
Rely solely on the lithium-ion battery mounted under the load floor and you will enjoy a range of approximately 32 miles says Mitsubishi.
When the amount of charge in the battery starts to fall significantly or when more power is needed the engine cuts in and in effect acts as a generator, supplying juice to the electric motors.
At motorway speeds the engine does most of the work, with the motors jumping in to provide a bit more boost when the driver is overtaking or climbing a steep hill.
Regeneration when braking puts some charge back into the battery, but to return it to full strength you will need to plug the vehicle into a charging point. The 12kWh battery can be fully recharged from a standard domestic supply in around five hours, says Mitsubishi. If you have access to a rapid charger then you can get back 80% of the maximum capacity in just 30 minutes, it adds.
The plug-in points are under a flap on the offside of the body towards the rear, with the petrol filler point on the nearside. There’s a 5m-long domestic charging cable in a lidded compartment in the cargo bed.
The Twin Motor 4WD system uses the front motor and/or engine to deliver power to the front wheels and the rear motor to deliver power to the back wheels. Select Normal Mode when, say, going down an icy country lane and require a bit more grip, but switch to Lock Mode if crossing a muddy, deeply rutted paddock.
Access to the 1.6m3 load area is through opaque side-hinged doors on both the offside and nearside, as well as through a rear hatch. Payload capacity is 500kg.
Keyless entry and operation is a standard feature, and to get going simply plant your foot firmly on the brake pedal and press the starter button. Slot the transmission lever into either ‘D’ for Drive or ‘R’ for Reverse, and off you go.
With plenty of performance on tap, the Outlander PHEV rides and handles well and goes about its business comparatively quietly, even when the petrol engine kicks in, which it does seamlessly; all that’s audible on battery power is the muted slapping of the tyres against the highway.
You can use the selector lever to alter the level of regeneration required. Three different strength settings can be chosen, increasing to five if you employ the paddles on each side of the steering column. And don’t be nervous – even on the maximum setting you will not stand the van on its nose the next time you lift off the accelerator and press the brake pedal.
Highly Commended: Nissan e-NV200 five-year/62,000-mile warranty
The Highly Commended choice this year is Nissan’s all-electric e-NV200, which is now protected by a praiseworthy five-year/60,000-mile warranty. Ideal for handing short-haul local work, it is by far and away the most convincing and practical electric van around, with plenty of cargo space (4.2m3) and payload capacity (703kg) for its size.
An 80kW AC synchronous electric motor draws power from a lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the cargo bed. Maximum torque is 254Nm, and with an electric motor it is all instantly available.
Fuel costs start from as little as 2p a mile, says Nissan, and a range of up to 106 miles on a single charge is a practical possibility. Zero exhaust emissions make it the ideal urban delivery vehicle, with no need to worry about NOx or particulates polluting city streets.