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MITSUBISHI’S NEW OUTLANDER PHEV is one of the most intriguing cars at the Paris motor show, thanks to its high-tech hybrid powertrain.


PHEV stands for Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle. As ‘plug-in’ implies, owners will be able to charge the car’s battery at home or at special charging stations, before driving up to 55km (34 miles) on electric power alone.


The really clever bit is the way the Outlander’s petrol engine can be used to supplement the two electric motors (one for the front wheels and one for the back). In ‘Series Hybrid Mode’ the engine is used as a generator for the electric motors. The hybrid powertrain switches to this mode when the battery level falls low or when extra performance is needed, such as when overtaking or climbing a steep hill.


In ‘Parallel Hybrid Mode’ the 2.0-litre petrol engine does most of the work, with help from the electric motors when needed. The car switches to this mode for high-speed driving.


By combining electric motors and a petrol engine in this way Mitsubishi claims a range of 880km (547 miles) or more.


The Outlander PHEV isn’t the first plug-in hybrid you’ll find similar technology is already in showrooms with the Chevrolet Volt and Vauxhall Ampera. However, it can lay claim to being the first plug-in hybrid SUV.


Expect to see the new Outlander PHEV in showrooms in 2013. There’s likely to be a significant premium compared with the diesel, although we’re waiting for confirmation of prices for the whole range. We’re also checking whether the PHEV model will be homologated for towing. If it isn’t, the diesel Outlander should prove a very capable alternative (there’s a review in the October issue of the magazine).


Mitsubishi is also showing a revised ASX crossover and a new supermini.