By David Roberts
The lack of affordable all-wheel drive and sport utility vehicle (SUV) models has challenged growth of the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) market. This is especially true in New England and across northeastern states where snowy winter conditions and rural gravel roads present many new vehicle shoppers with a quandary – reduce their environmental footprint by going electric or choosing the type of vehicle they really need or can afford for their personal transportation.
The popularity of SUVs and light trucks continues to ramp up as they now sell at about double the rate of smaller passenger cars. Fortunately, we are now starting to see more options for all-wheel drive and higher clearance electric vehicles (EVs). At the upper end of the price scale Tesla, BMW, Volvo and Mercedes have offered all-wheel drive SUV EV models in both all-electric and plug-in hybrid (electric plus gasoline) guises for several years, albeit at prices well over $50,000 in most cases.
Mitsubishi is joining the all-wheel drive EV market in December with the launch of their Outlander plug-in hybrid SUV in the United States. This second generation model will finally reach us after several years of Outlander PHEV availability in Japan and Europe, where it has been one of the top-selling models. Electric range is rated at 22 miles, and total range with a full tank of gasoline is 310 miles. The starting price will be just under $35,000 before incentives – it is eligible for a federal tax credit of $5,836. (NOTE: as of early December 2017, the fate of the federal EV tax credit is uncertain as the U.S. House version of the federal tax reform bill proposed elimination of this program at the end of 2017). Many states and electric utilities are offering additional incentives that will bring the cost lower still.
Like many other EVs, charging the Outlander PHEV is simple, with three different methods to choose from depending on your needs and available charging equipment. The vehicle can be charged with a standard 120V power outlet at home or elsewhere with the supplied charging cable (full charge in less than eight hours), or with a 240V charging device at home or in many public locations (full charge in less than four hours). Unusual for a plug-in hybrid, the Outlander also comes standard with DC Fast Charging capability. Plugging in at a public CHAdeMO-plug-equipped DC Fast Charger, the vehicle will charge up to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes.
If you are looking for the flexibility of a plug-in hybrid and need higher ground clearance or all-wheel drive this is definitely an EV worth checking out and is an indication of what is coming to the EV market in the next few years as many other automakers are developing similarly priced all-wheel drive and SUV models.
State EV Sales Comparison
Wondering how your state is doing in getting more EVs on the road? The Auto Alliance, an industry trade group, has partnered with the Center for Sustainable Energy to create a dashboard of EV sales by state. The map shows the percent of new vehicle sales in northeastern states that were EVs over a 12 month period from July 2016 to June 2017 using data from this dashboard.
Vermont was the northeast regional EV sales leader at 1.4% of overall vehicle sales. The region has a lot of work to catch up to west coast states like California, which won the overall national title with EVs representing 4.4% of overall sales. The arrival of new EV models and incentive programs paired with growing consumer awareness suggests these numbers will continue to improve over the next few years.
David Roberts is the Drive Electric Vermont coordinator. He has driven an all-electric Nissan LEAF for the past 5 years and says if you have to drive, drive electric.