Element editor James Russell took the brand-new Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Electric Hybrid for a test drive.

The best thing about test driving an electric vehicle is imagining the possibilities.

The most obvious one that springs to mind about the Outlander is that the depressing weekly trip to the service station for $100+ worth of climate destroying fossil fuels could be dispensed with.

I have to admit, I was also excited about the possibility that, when smugly asked by a Mike Hosking/Leighton Smith climate-change-denying type whether or not I drive a car to get around, I could smugly answer "yes - an electric one".

Just recently I had 2.8kW of solar panels fitted to my roof - you have to practise what you preach. But it brought up another possibility - that provided I stayed under the Mitsubishi Plug-In Hybrid's (PHEV) 52km electric range before the petrol motor kicked in, and plugged the car in while the sun was shining, then motoring would be essentially free. Only 1kW of my total array was dedicated to charging the car when the sun was shining.


It all brings up the possibility of a pretty smart future, where solar panels on businesses and homes are charging vehicles while their owners work or relax at home.

When you consider that three quarters of the $9b worth of fuel used in this country is for private vehicles it represents not only a colossal financial boost, but a significant step towards New Zealand's energy resilience.

The way the biofuels industry is progressing, it's entirely feasible the rest of the country's liquid fuels could come from net-zero emissions sources without the need for Mr Bridges to hand out any deep sea drilling permits.

The brand new Mitsi PHEV has an annual running electricity cost of $364, an annual fuel cost of $280 and will travel 100 kilometres on 1.9 litres of fuel. For a car which still has an engine in it, these are unheard-of figures. It's also telling that electricity will cost more than fuel, despite the relatively small range.

I'm afraid than other than being able to safely reach its destination, the way a vehicle handles means little to me, and in attempting to describe it I would only embarrass myself. Here's how Herald reviewer Damien O'Carrol reviews its performance: "It weighs more than a standard Outlander, but with all that weight down in the drivetrain it actually improves the Outlander's handling. The extra weight also improves the feel of the Outlander on the road. The extra grunt from the electric motors is felt as well, with Mitsubishi's claim that the PHEV is also the performance model of the Outlander range certainly holding true on the road."

Box ticked there, then.

Also worthy of note here is that the Mitsubishi PHEV doesn't economise on space and practicality like some of its e-competitors. It's a large, roomy vehicle, which feels solid and safe on the road. It will take a hoard of children, bikes, buggies and whatever else you throw at it.

It seems its batteries haven't compromised anything - probably because there's not many of them. It's the future of cars. At least for the next decade, anyway - before the Outlander all-electric arrives.


Like what you see? For weekly Element news sign up to our newsletter. We're also on Facebook and Twitter.