Clean tech expert Duncan Stewart discovers there is an outstanding business case for firms adopting the latest breed of hybrid electric vehicles from Mitsubishi.

ELEMENT PROMOTION:

"You know the planet has actually been cooling down since 1998", says a random guy in the carpark, with a slightly turgid look at the Outlander PHEV. "And less CO2 emissions means you're actually starving the rainforests, not helping them." Uh huh. "And if you really wanted an economical car, you'd get a small diesel." OK, thanks for the (unsolicited) marching orders, Carpark Guy.

If I was brutally honest, after a week of owning the Outlander PHEV (Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicle) the only difference you would probably notice from its internal combustion cousin, is that you would see a lot less of the local Z station (except the Z stations with EV fast chargers of course).

That, and as I recently discovered, you will have now also inadvertently planted your flag in enemy territory in a global war of words about climate change.

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Carpark Guy and others like him, armed with faux science, regurgitated Clarkson rhetoric and a paradoxical fondness for contrarianism, want to forcibly make you understand that your plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is somehow evil.

Presumably because it threatens to tear away the comfy fur seal rug upon which they sleepwalk through life. For Carpark Guy, the Outlander PHEV is a symbol of 'green', and green equals anti-capitalism, enforced obligations and worst of all, shouldering disproportionate responsibility for our collective planetary over-consumption.

I don't blame Carpark Guy. In fact as a clean technology investor, I make money selling green things to him without him even knowing it. But we do hold very different perspectives about the environment, about money, and about how humans should choose to navigate their way between the two.

Electric vehicles could equally be seen as a symbol of a more enlightened approach to humanity, one that recognises that yes, we 7.2 billion consumers do have a profound effect on the environment - but we needn't pack up and leave, we simply need to seek out less toxic ways of running our economies.

In commercial terms, EVs are a wave of green innovation upon which New Zealand companies should be riding. The Outlander PHEV is the perfect solution for a company that wants green credibility, while enjoying stunning fuel efficiency.

The return on investment from fuel savings will excite the sternest of accountants. To become a green trailblazer, plug the Outlander PHEV into a solar system at work, and you will give the marketing, HR and sales team a great story to legitimise your dedication to sustainability.

The Outlander PHEV is also stylish with a smart leather interior and the dash is interesting without being distracting. The body shape is similar to most mid-range 4WDs - which is remarkable given car manufacturers' love of making EVs look like terrified cats.

It has two 60kw electric engines, plus a two-litre 88kw petrol engine, which delivers go-juice once the 60km or so of battery power is used up. If you can make toast you will also be highly competent at charging the vehicle; six hours overnight or 30 minutes for 80% on a fast charger.

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It has a reversing camera, which is useful for avoiding spoodles when silently backing out of the driveway. It fits all your work gear, tows boats and goes up sand dunes.

The Outlander PHEV delivers these features while only emitting 44g/km of CO2, a whisper compared to petrol versions of the same class that are around 172g/km.

Calculating total driving range is notoriously difficult because regenerative braking and different acceleration profiles means that the ratio of EV and petrol-assisted EV will vary between drivers and terrain. But in summary, chill out, range is not an issue for this vehicle.

EV technology will only get better, slicker, cheaper and less impactful on the environment. The Outlander PHEV is a huge step in this direction, and if you take the time to understand the technological and engineering aspects, it is truly amazing.

Speaking of which, if you are interested in electric vehicles, check out EVolocity - it's an event where you can build your own EV and race it on a track against other nutters. Or you can watch a Ferrari get beaten by an EV, and see the world's fastest EV bike, the Killacycle. Fantastic fun.

EVolocity is designed to be a pathway for Kiwis to develop new technologies that will be in high demand in the global shift to EVs - things such as control software, composites, electric engines, charging infrastructure and other highvalue kit.

The Outlander PHEV is a fine car, and your company should consider buying one, not only because it performs well, has brand opportunities and is economical to run, but because it launches a silent salvo of insight deep into territory occupied by Carpark Guy.

And for the record, the planet has not been cooling down, it's been getting significantly and measurably warmer. This is a problem, so let's get on with fixing it.


The numbers

• $1.41 - The cost to fully charge the batteries on the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
• 52 - The kilometres the vehicle can travel on a full charge
• 6.5 - The hours needed to charge the car
• $364 - Electricity costs per year (based on 38 kilometres travelled each day)
• $280 - Fuel costs per year (based on EECA tests)
• 6 Star - The Energywise rating from EECA

Test drive and win

Test drive today and go into the draw to win a home solar panel package worth $8799 from Mitsubishi Electric . To find out more visit andrewsimms.co.nz
Duncan Stewart is a director of clean tech investment firm The Greenhouse, a trustee of green growth business group Pure Advantage, and a board member of the New Zealand electric vehicle association, Drive Electric. The Outlander was provided to Duncan by Mitsubishi Motors.