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The landscape of electrified vehicles is getting crowded, but for many of the startups as well as some legacy manufacturers, they are producing and selling the technology for the first time.

Advances in AWD, technology show how good electrified cars can be in winter

The landscape of electrified vehicles is getting crowded, but for many of the startups as well as some legacy manufacturers, they are producing and selling the technology for the first time.

That isn’t the case for Mitsubishi Motors.

The redesigned Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) from the Japanese automaker will hit Canadian showrooms any day now. The previous generation of the SUV has been the best-selling vehicle in its class and the latest model comes with longer electric range, a new premium style and seating for up to seven. It also benefits from the decades of knowledge and experience Mitsubishi has gained researching and developing not only electrified cars but working with and improving its all-wheel-drive system - two technologies that now go hand in hand.

Mitsubishi began researching electric vehicle technologies in the 1970s, it earned a Guinness World Record in 1999 with an EV that travelled 2,000 kilometres in 24 hours, and it delivered the first mass-produced EV in the world with the i-MiEV in 2009. The first PHEV SUV was offered in select markets nearly a decade ago, and in 2017 the Outlander PHEV arrived in Canada. It quickly became and still is the class leader.

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“When the vehicle launched years back, there was great anticipation that we were going to get it in Canada, because obviously the format really fit this market. It was based on an SUV, which of course was and is the segment that is the biggest in Canada,” says Don Ulmer, senior manager of corporate and product strategy with Mitsubishi Motors Canada.

He adds Mitsubishi expects heavy demand for the new model when it launches. Not only is it an SUV, a popular segment with Canadians, but it has the latest version of an all-wheel-drive system Mitsubishi is famous for producing. The carmaker developed its first four-wheel-drive system almost 90 years ago, and it has since won four drivers’ and one manufacturer’s world titles in the World Rally Championship.

It introduced S-AWC (Super All-Wheel Control), the brand name for its all-wheel-drive system, with the 2008 model year of the Lancer Evolution.

“When you look at SUV buyers (in Canada) the top purchase reason is almost always all-wheel drive,” Ulmer says. He adds that Mitsubishi has continued to improve the S-AWC system over the years, and the best version of it resides in the new Outlander PHEV, in large part because of the two electric motors.

These are two areas Mitsubishi has been working on for decades and they’re coming together in one vehicle to allow it to excel in harsh conditions.

“Winter, that’s really where we’re going to shine and people are going to notice the effects of the system,” Ulmer says. “Behind the scenes, it’s making driving more enjoyable even on dry roads, because it’s constantly monitoring the front-to-rear torque distribution and lateral torque distribution of the vehicle, so you constantly have the S-AWC system keeping an eye on the vehicle dynamics.”

The Outlander PHEV makes use of front and rear electric motors, which have seen a significant power boost from the previous generation. Ulmer says the distribution of torque is “lightning quick” because there is an electronic connection between the front and rear. On traditional SUVs, there is a physical transfer through some sort of drive shaft.

To manage right to left torque distribution, the Outlander PHEV has Active Yaw Control and an ABS system incorporated into the S-AWC system. Ulmer says that means it greatly enhances the dynamic control of the vehicle.

The other area that helps an electrified vehicle’s handling in the winter is the lower centre of gravity because the batteries are below the floor. In the past, some early-to-market SUVs had issues with rolling over because of a high centre of gravity, but Ulmer says the Outlander PHEV “provides a rally- stable, confident driving feel with its low centre of gravity.”

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EVs are known to lose electric range in colder temperatures. The new model gains a heat pump, which “will provide equivalent or slightly better heat to the vehicle in the winter at a reduced consumption level,” Ulmer says.

It allows you to warm up your car and use less battery, which means less deterioration of range. “The heat-pump technology tends to be more effective in terms of performance as well, versus an electric heating type system.”

More than half of Globe and Mail readers in a recent survey identified all-wheel drive as one of the most important factors in choosing a new vehicle, more than half also said they intend to purchase an SUV, and almost half said they want to buy an EV or PHEV. It puts the Outlander PHEV in a good position in a country known for harsh winter driving conditions.

“We have a great 20-year history in Canada,” Ulmer says. “We’ve had a lot of successful launches over the years. This Outlander PHEV we are about to launch will continue that tradition.”

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Mitsubishi Motors. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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