Mitsubishi Delays Outlander Plug-in Until 2015, Cites Battery Supply Woes
Mitsubishi confirmed yesterday that U.S. launch of its Outlander plug-in hybrid crossover SUV would be delayed until 2015, citing high demand for the car in its home market of Japan combined with a lack of battery supply.
The Japanese automaker’s plug-in fleet, which once held promise to become an industry leader, has been beset by manufacturing and sales woes. Despite launching months ago, production of the Japanese-market Outlander Plug-in Hybrid was halted earlier this year after several battery fires caused by cell contamination in the battery manufacturing process.
In August, Mitsubishi resumed production of the plug-in Outlander, as well as its all-electric city car, the i-MiEV, after the issue was identified and the battery manufacturing process modified to eliminate contamination. But the five-month halt in production created a backlog of more than 18,000 orders to fulfill in Japan. At the same time, the recall required replacement of battery packs in more than 4,400 Mitsubishi vehicles.
To cope with this backlog, Mitsubishi doubled Outlander Plug-in Hybrid production at its Nagoya plant in Japan—the only place where the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid is made—from 2,000 cars per month to 4,000 cars per month.
As a result, Mitsubishi is struggling to obtain enough battery packs for its struggling electric car program. Facing a shortage of battery packs, Mitsubishi is unable to launch another battery-powered vehicle in a new market. This pushes the U.S. launch of the range-extended crossover SUV back another year or more.
“The PHEV is expected to arrive in calendar year 2015 and the delay is indeed due to the lack of battery supply,” a Mitsubishi representative told InsideEVs yesterday. “Mitsubishi Motor Corporation is working with the supplier to seek for battery production volume enhancement,” the spokesperson continued.
Persistent Gap in the Market
With two 50 kilowatt electric motors, one for each axle, the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid is capable of all-electric all-wheel drive operation at speeds of up to 75 mph. Range from its fully-charged 12 kilowatt-hour battery pack is expected to be in the 30-mile range.
Meanwhile, a 2.0-liter gasoline engine can operate in either series hybrid mode, providing power to drive the electric motors, or in parallel hybrid mode, where the front wheels are driven directly by the engine. Given the size and the weight of the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid, its likely gas mileage in range-extended mode would be somewhere around 35 to 40 mpg.
The Outlander Plug-in Hybrid is currently the only plug-in range-extended SUV slated to join the U.S. market any time soon. Its delay continues to leave a gap in the market for those who want the features of an SUV, and a robust plug-in vehicle still capable of long-range trips. The other two plug-in crossover SUVs—the limited-production Toyota RAV4 EV and the as-yet-to-released Tesla Model X—are pure electric-only vehicles.
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