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HEV before BEV except after PHEV

Mitsubishi says hybrid Triton will arrive well before a fully battery electric model

26 Jul 2023

MITSUBISHI says it is in “advanced development” of a petrol-electric hybrid (HEV) driveline for its sixth-generation Triton unveiled in Bangkok, Thailand.


Despite earlier speculation that a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the strong-selling utility would be offered from launch, the Japanese manufacturer now says a HEV driveline is a simpler solution from a packaging perspective, and one that will be increasingly necessary as global emissions regulations tighten.


The new Triton, which will be offered initially with the carryover 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine in several states of tune, is set to launch locally in February next year (2024). A HEV driveline is likely to follow within 12-18 months.


Speaking to Australian journalists, Mitsubishi Motor Corporation executive vice president, Hiroshi Nagaoka, said a HEV driveline is compatible with the Triton’s newly designed chassis, making it a more cost-effective solution from a production standpoint.


“(With a HEV) we don’t have to put in as many batteries as we would with a plug-in hybrid … and we can accommodate a smaller battery and gasoline tank (within the existing package,” he explained.


“If battery technology improves, we could do a plug-in hybrid (on this platform), but at the moment the number of batteries required would occupy too much space … (that said,) we are studying that (PHEV) solution as well.


“In the short-term, it (HEV) is a very good solution for CO2 reduction.”


And while options from within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance may bear fruit for other future Mitsubishi models, Mr Nagaoka said the use of Nissan’s E-Power system, as offered in the current X-Trail, has limitations in light commercial vehicle applications owing primarily to its lack of a direct connection between the ICE power unit and the driven wheels.


“(Because) E-Power is a kind of battery EV, with no gearing from the engine (to the driven wheels), that’s kind of a problem for a bigger car, and I know this very well” the former Nissan corporate vice president explained.


“In a small car, that’s fine. But (for Triton), having a gear for the engine so that we can run the car with electricity or an ICE engine, is our preferred solution.”


Mr Nagaoka explained in detail how packaging a battery array and a fuel tank was problematic in a body-on-frame package like the Triton, and said it was likely a HEV solution would be offered well before a PHEV or BEV utility becomes a reality.


“In the future, we think that a BEV is also required for a pick-up truck, but the question is time – when we should introduce a BEV. (Until then), we also need to think about hybrid or PHEV. If it’s a HEV, we can use the current type of frame, and that’s very important,” he reiterated.


“In the short-term, that will be a very good solution for us in terms of electrification. But we are actually studying both kinds of EV – battery and HEV – for the future; and we are in the advanced engineering phase of those developments.


“But we have not decided yet which of the technologies we should take up at a fast pace.


“We realised our competitors are doing the same in the future, so we definitely need to consider that, and then hopefully we will not be behind, and then at least we can catch up or maybe even get ahead of them.”


With Ford/Volkswagen already well advanced in the electrification of Ranger/Amarok, and Toyota readying a MHEV version of the HiLux for Australian release next year, it seems Mitsubishi would want to move fast.


The Triton is also likely to face a longer list of battery electric competitors by the time a full electric model surfaces… hopefully Mitsubishi doesn’t ponder on its decision for too long.


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