The Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid promises to fill an empty niche in the new-car market: a mid-size crossover utility vehicle with up to 30 miles of all-electric running, plus a plug-in hybrid powertrain for unlimited range.
But a U.S. Mitsubishi executive says that high demand in other global markets and a limited supply of battery packs will delay its U.S. launch until about this time next year.
Bryan Arnett, senior manager of product strategy for Mitsubishi Motors North America, told Green Car Reports that "a year from now" was most likely the earliest realistic launch window for the Outlander Plug-In Hybrid.
Demand in both Japan and certain European countries has been high, he said, and Mitsubishi is constrained by the ability of its battery supplier to fabricate more cells and packs.
And sales halts in the Japanese market along with a pair of recalls to modify the battery pack in already-sold vehicles didn't help either, he admitted.
Still, even if it arrives as a 2015 model, the plug-in hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander should remain unique on the market.
Its closest plug-in competitor might be the Tesla Model X crossover, now scheduled to go into production late next year and sell in volume during 2015.
Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid, 2012 Paris Motor Show
Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid, 2012 Paris Motor ShowEnlarge Photo
The plug-in hybrid Outlander debuted last fall at the Paris Motor Show, and went on sale in Europe and Japan early this year.
The remarkably complex plug-in hybrid system fitted to the Outlander can operate as a parallel hybrid (like a Prius), a series hybrid (in which the engine only generates electricity), and an all-electric vehicle (using the rear axle's electric motor).
Its 12 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is larger than those of most plug-in hybrids, while its 2.0-liter gasoline engine is small for a mid-size crossover.
But in electric-only mode, the vehicle can generate up to 245 lb-ft of torque, thanks to a pair of 60-kilowatt electric motors, one on each axle. In all-electric mode, Mitsubishi claims a top speed of 75 mph.
The rear motor only drives the wheels; the front motor can power the front wheels alone, but also blends torque with that from the engine.
Arnett said the plug-in Outlander's range is "about 30 miles," though he stressed no EPA ratings had been issued.
As for pricing, he said only, "That's a huge discussion right now."