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Mitsubishi keeps the EV ball rolling with the funky Mi-Tech concept

Mitsubishi keeps the EV ball rolling with the funky Mi-Tech concept
Autos
Mitsubishi is capitalizing on its unexpected leadership in the plug-in SUV segment. For now the Mi-Tech is a concept, but Mitsubishi has something of a history of making bold — or at least unexpected — moves.

Mitsubishi, having already sold 200,000 Outlander PHEVs worldwide, finds itself not only the most popular plug-in SUV in Canada, but the whole world. Not one to look such a gift horse in the mouth, Mitsu is looking for ways to expand on its zero-emissions leadership, hence the Mi-Tech concept revealed here at the Tokyo Motor Show.

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Radically different, the Mi-Tech is a convertible crossover concept unique in offering no less than four electric motors. Yes, a separate electric motor at each wheel, which means — as you may have already guessed — the resultant Quad Motor 4WD System system is able to control each wheel independently. Like the Outlander PHEV, the Mi-Tech has a range extending fossil fuelled engine. But, it a complete departure — it’s a concept, after all — the Mi-Tech’s range extender isn’t an internal combustion engine. Instead, in the most radical departure yet for a hybrid vehicle, the Mi-Tech’s range is extended by a gas turbine engine.

The reasons for the way-rad powertrain, says Mitsubishi, are many. For one, gas turbines are small and compact. More importantly, they put out an amazing amount of power given their small size. They also — and this is of no small import, given the hoped-for global impact of a plug-in SUV — can run on multiple fuels; besides gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and alcohol are all turbine-friendly. 

Exactly like this? Never. It’s a concept. As far-fetched as a convertible crossover may seem, however, one shouldn’t discount Mitsubishi’s willingness to innovate where others fear to tread. If anyone can make a turbine-powered hybrid commercially viable, it’s Mitsubishi.

Mitsubishi firmly believes that a plug-in hybrid powertrain is ideal for mid-sized vehicles that travel frequently over long distances. We agree. As for the turbine, it’s been tried numerous times over the years — most notably by Chrysler, but in all those cases, it was the primary powerplant. Turbines have terrible transient response — i.e. they respond poorly to throttle inputs — but they are very efficient at steady speeds, exactly what a PHEV needs as a range-extender in a plug-in hybrid. This concept is not as crazy as it might seam. Let’s hope Mitsubishi pursues it.
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