Is Mitsubishi About to Reveal the Plug-In SUV Everyone Really Wants?

Mitsubishi’s new concept is roofless, ready for off-roading—and could be the future template for plug-in-hybrid machines.

Copyright 2019

Later this month, Mitsubishi is set to unveil its MI-Tech concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show. Based on the early renderings and information released by the company, it could be the ultimate beach cruiser. It could also point the way forward for hybrid powertrains in an era when pure electric vehicles seem poised to seize the lion’s share of the alternative-fuel vehicle market.

The MI-Tech uses a plug-in hybrid powertrain, but with more of an emphasis on electric and less on gas than most current plug-ins. It will employ a quad-motor four-wheel-drive system with a motor at each wheel. The gas-powered component, interestingly enough, will be a small turbine — yup, like a jet engine — that works as a range extender feeding electricity to the batteries and motors. Mitsubishi says this setup will produce “optimum torque,” “precise handling” and “ingenious performance on the adventurous off-road.”

Don’t expect this specific vehicle to make it to production. Two-door SUVs are tough to sell for practicality purposes, let alone two-seat ones. The MI-Tech is built to conquer “all-terrain in light and wind,” but not rain, because there’s no roof.

An attempt to mold the MI-Tech into a marketable production vehicle could resemble the oft-maligned Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, the short-lived two-door convertible SUV. Audi’s off-roading Warthog may be closer to an actual production vehicle than this Mitsu, albeit with actual headlights instead of the flying drone fleet.

Still, it’s very possible we could see a similar quad-electric-motor-plus-turbine-range-extender setup on a future Mitsubishi crossover/SUV, as Autocar points out. For those who can tolerate some emissions, a turbine could be a cost-effective workaround for electric vehicles which require heavy, expensive battery packs to add range. Who knows? We may even see this setup on an eventual revival of Mitsubishi’s iconic Evo, which will likely be a crossover.

Regardless, this Mitsubishi concept seems likely to preview some sort of upcoming compact plug-in SUV that leans more on electricity than gas — and, as rumors of Nissan’s soon-to-arrive electric crossover have proven, that’s exactly the kind of vehicle the world seems to want these days.

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