Towing with the Outlander PHEV

The blog describes our trips and experiences towing a Goldstream Crown camper around with our Mitsubishi Outlander Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

January 2018 Trip

We organized caravan parks for 7 stays over a 2 week and 1 day period from January 9th to January 24th. We travelled from our home 20km east of Melbourne up the east coast of Australia to Katoomba (the Blue Mountains) near Sydney - and back.

There were many hills...

The short story is the the PHEV performed well but I learnt even more interesting facits of towing with this vehicle.

Trip ODO readings are as follows:
Home 17550
Beechworth 17858
Tumut 18100
Jinderbyne 18325-18350
Narooma 18600-18639
Ulladulla 18810
Blackheath (near Katoomba in Blue Mountains) 19105-19335 (trip to/from Jenolan caves and various trips around Katoomba etc.)
Gerroa 19603
Bermagui 19852
Bairnsdale 20317 (trip into Paynesville and back included)
Home 20595

So just over 3000km.

My new learning experience that was to forever change my driving style with the PHEV when towing was just north of Albury on the Beechworth to Tumut leg - second day out.

On that section of the Hume highway it is a 110km/h freeway (same as many sections of the Hume) and has a gradual climb as well. We were on cruise control and around 108km/h and the battery range was nearing zero. I commented that I was curious to see when the PHEV did when we no longer had any battery power to assist maintaining a speed that needed more than the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) could do. (This isn't something I will do again.)

The answer came a few minutes later. Suddenly the cruise control either cut-out or wound it's way down to 80 km/h in a few seconds. Simultaneously a flashing orange turtle appeared on the dash. The PHEV had switched to series hybrid and about 20 to 30 seconds later the turtle disappeared. I'm not sure whether I cancelled the cruise control or the PHEV did.

Having learnt that little (big) lesson. throughout the rest of the trip we always maintained a speed that allowed the battery level to stay above zero range. Flat and level and towing 1500kg this is about 95km/h (PHEV speedo).

Hilly terrain is totally another matter...

Addition: 30th Nov-2018
In undulating highway areas the PHEV does suffer from a lack of energy - not power. By that I mean the battery depletes on the climb and you end up at about 70km/h so as to get it to stay in series mode in an endeavour to get a little energy back into the battery. I would love to see this configurable but it could be that the eMotor gear ratios would make the vehicle less efficient of it were.

The net result is that vehicles behind you think you are underpowered - when in fact you are under-energied. Weird huh!

Friday, October 6, 2017

A few days at the Murray River

We recently went to Yarrawonga for a few days then on to Moama (near Echuca).
Except for a few km around Moama we towed for most of the distance.

ODO when we left home: 16456.
ODO at end of trip: 17185.
Fuel use was about 11 litres per 100 km.

The run up and down from Melbourne to the Murray was pretty easy on the PHEV. It was able to maintain a few km of battery power reserve in both directions.

We finally purchased a folding clothesline just before the trip. It seems trivial but really nice to have somewhere to hang our own clothes. This is our site at Moama - backing onto the park Marina which in turn backs onto the Murray River.

Caravan distance: 730km.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tour fuel record & more Observations

ODO    Fuel   Trip   Place
14278  26.1   0      Near Home (Do not include)
14553  31.3   275    Bairnsdale
14798  32.6   245    Cann River
15023  33.65  225    Bermaguie
15349  37.02  326    Bega ***
15528  22.7   179    Cann River
15767  31.94  329    Sale
15995  26.68  228    Village Loch
16095  12     100    Home (fuel estimate)

You can see after our scare coming back into Bega we filled a bit sooner than normal on the next one.

The road from South Durras to Eden was a pleasant drive.

The PHEV doesn't have great range when towing but with only a 45 liter tank a couple of Jerry cans would get close to doubling its range. That said, a range of around 300 km is fine for us at the moment.

I always hit "Charge" as soon as departing a site. The battery might then last anywhere from 250km (first day) to 100 km depending on terrain. The hillier it is, the less likely that the battery will last. When the battery bars disappear, the engine is much more likely to drop out of direct-to-road mode and run as a pure generator for a couple of minutes or so - and when climbing.

We had a running joke for the first 6 days that I never remembered to plug on the OBD2 dongle. I rightly am not allowed to fiddle with EvBatMon while driving but Mrs. EV managed to get a few figures of interest.
When the battery bars are gone, the PHEV will not let the battery drop below around 24% SOC (real). It then charges it up to around 29 to 30% then drops back to direct-to-road (parallel hybrid). On the flat and level at 100 km/h it manages to hold battery level without going into series hybrid (generator mode).

So the PHEV takes good care of the battery pack even though the bars rarely come back when travelling at speed. The battery range can get up to about 4 km when cruising around a township looking for the caravan park. I generally turn "Charge" off at this point so we can run EV into the park.

Once more thing. It is REALLY unusual for me to have to use brakes at all when on the highway. Even down the mountains - B5 regen handles it all. I did dial the caravan brakes (via electric brake controller) down to 0 once or twice so I could touch the brake peddle for more regen. A bit Anal really and I understand the dangers of doing it (a momentary button would be nice).

Caravan distance: ~1817km.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nine days touring

We took the van away for nine days just before Easter - touring up the east coast from Melbourne as far as Batemans Bay. We only stayed for two nights at two places, otherwise moving every day.
I'll fill out some details in the next few days but in the meantime here is the summary. Essentially the trip was largely uneventful PHEV wise.

Our site for two nights at Buchan on the outward journey.

We charged the car nine times including the night before leaving home. All charging was done using the EVSE (brick) with the 10A plug (it draws about 6 Amps) plugged into the side of the van
Total distance traveled was 1817 km. Fuel used was 228 litres. Fuel economy for the trip was 12.5 l/100 km.

The "largely uneventful" event was what we thought was a near miss running out of fuel coming back down the coast into Bega. With 26 km to go into Bega, the remaining distance estimate on the dash suddenly went from 50 km to "---". So there we were with battery distance at "---" and combined distance estimate at "---", counting the kilometers. I swapped driving style to "EV efficiency  mode" using what little skills I have gleaned driving my EV over the past four years to get the most distance for the least energy expended.

I kept reassuring my other half that we wouldn't just stop - that we would get more warnings and the car would have a couple of km under it's sleeve. We became less stressed when we only had about 6 km to go - figuring that at least we could now walk into Bega. As we pulled into the first petrol station in Bega, the dashboard beeped and suggested we "refuel". We put 37 liters in the tank - which I later verified as holding 45 liters. So it wasn't that close after all.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mirror problem solved

I have been having trouble keeping the cheap SCA (SuperCheap Auto) towing mirrors secured to the PHEV mirrors. I have kept my older magnetic door mirrors (just in case) but don't like using them as they have a reputation for scratching the door glass.

Anyway the trick is to cross the straps. Secure the first strap from closer to the car to the outside then do the other strap. Then tighten them again. The slight protuberance of the mirror indicator lense holds them in place perfectly. Before doing this I had to re-position and tighten them every 60 km or so (they kept sliding to the outside of the cars mirror) - now they stay in place all day.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Long Weekend - Short trip

On the long weekend in Victoria, we took the van to Seymour - about 110km north of home.
The trip was uneventful, with the PHEV just able to maintain charge while we traveled about 100km/h.

The Goulburn River Caravan Park at Seymour.

We had a meeting in Shepparton - about 80km further on so left the van at Seymour and drove up and back to Shepparton the following day.
Towing economy was 12.1 l/100km and non-towing was 6.1 l/100km - at least for the trip up to Shepparton. The trip back was 10.2 l/100km.
Everyone but us cleared out early Monday morning. We stuck around until about midday.

I parked the PHEV in as close to a tree as possible so kids couldn't squeeze between the vehicle and the tree and bend the charge flap (known problem). It also helped to hide the charge cable so we avoided any issues...

I have bought a new OBD2 dongle which works fine but didn't get a chance to monitor anything yet.
Filled at Seymour. ODO 13961. 28.45 L.
Caravan distance: 240km.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Battery Condition - October 2016

This is a retrospective post but I'll leave the post date correct.

Using EvBatMon for the PHEV and Android and a cheap eBay OBD2 dongle, I grabbed this snapshot of the PHEV's battery condition a day or two after we picked it up on 11th October 2016.

Shortly after I grabbed this pic the dongle died - I wasn't too surprised.
I have a more expensive one on the way.
I was pretty happy with the 92.63% battery condition estimate as I was expecting around 93%.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Castlemaine to home.

We fully charged the PHEV overnight. We intended to stay around for most of Sunday but impending rain saw us pack up, hitch up and go in search of a late breakfast/lunch.

(This picture taken when we arrived and it was sunny.)

I left our site and immediately hit "save". Shortly after the battery range was around 37km (we normally see 48km when not towing).

We stopped for lunch and when we restarted, I allowed the PHEV to run battery powered until the range got down to around 15km again - then hit "save". This time it gradually dropped to 10km then stayed there.
The trip home involved a drop of about 500 meters overall for the 150km trip. We still had 10km remaining when we backed into our driveway at home - I should have used the battery energy but I wanted some spare.

Since it was just plain cold on Sunday, my better half had the heater on for the entire trip home. Her side was set to 25 degrees. It was anywhere from 11 to 14 degrees outside. Since our PHEV is the standard ZJ (not Aspire), we don't have engine coolant heating so it was all electric. While it subtracted 10km off the electric range (when the aircon button was pressed) I don't believe it impacted the overall economy much.

The trip home showed us 10.6 l/100km petrol usage. (The trip to Castlemaine used 11.1 l/100km). I'm really happy with that petrol consumption (a bit of battery help notwithstanding). The Super Snipe would have used over 20 l/100km going up the Calder. Other folks have quoted similar figures towing up the Calder in modern 4WDs.

Now the interesting bits.

Using the Info->Trip vehicle energy flow graphic (not ours) and the Power meter on the left of the speedo cluster (below), the following observations were made.

The power meter (left gauge) has a 90 degree wide section of the dial coloured green. I'll call the point where it transitions from Charge to Eco (blue to green), 0 degrees. Needle vertical I'll call 90 degrees.

(These picture are not from our PHEV.)
All the following observations were made at 100km/h on cruise control (so my foot didn't mess it around to much - the hills provide the slow moving input). Save or Charge didn't appear to matter.

At 100 km/h the motor is coupled to the front wheels in all cases.
From 0 to 40 (or 45) degrees (power meter needle) the motor also charges the battery - very slowly.
From 45 to around 60 degrees the battery is not used or charged at all.
From 60 degrees up, the battery is called upon to help run the vehicle.

This changes if you slow down. The speed at which the following takes place varies depending on the size of the hill (the load).
So at slower speeds (~=80km/h) or higher power demand, the motor uncouples from the front wheels, starts reving a lot and confines itself to running the generator. The wheels are then powered from the battery/generator. Essentially it becomes a CVT. This strategy appears to be because the motor can not provide as much generator power at lower revs (I'm guessing about 2500-2600RPM for 100km/h while the engine is coupled to the front wheels) so is better off un-coupling from the wheels and running the generator at higher RPM.

I'd love to know what the generator power is - I can't appear to find anything about it - I suspect 60kw.

I'll be using this blog to log ODO and petrol fillups from now on so:
First ever fill ODO13228
Castlemaine: ODO 13699, 26.44 L(Unl91).

Caravan distance: ~300km

Our site at Castlemaine

The BIG4 Caravan park at Castlemaine.
The PHEV waits to get charged on the first night out.

Picking up the van and First trip - Castlemaine

With the PHEV now sporting a new RedArc electric brake controller and a 12 pin trailer socket wired for 12V caravan battery and fridge (both courtesy of Boronia Auto Electrical Service - no affiliation but they did a great job), we picked up the new van on Thursday from Pakenham, about 50km east of home. The electrics were perfect!

The old weight distribution hitch (WDH) from the Super Snipe was on the wrong angle and I nearly had a hernia putting the first bar (of four) on the PHEV. So we bought a Hayman Reece chain type WDH from Goldstream and fitted it. It gave us nice control over the ball weight.

Fully loaded I reckon the van is just under the maximum rated towing load for the PHEV - 1500kg.

Saturday came around and our first trip out with the van was to Castlemaine, about 150km north by north west of where we live in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.

That meant going up the Calder highway, which is not a steep climb but it's a slow sneaks-up-on-you climb that goes on for many kilometers. On hot days, the Super Snipe always got pretty hot (engine wise) on a Calder trip - so it's a good test. Other folk at work have also noted that it's a petrol sucking climb for the first 45 minutes when towing.

Fully charged, we ran on battery power from home (plus a bit of petrol - more later) until the remaining EV range was 15km then switched to "save"* mode. At this point we had only travelled 15km. For the next 15 minutes, the EV range gradually dropped to 10km then recovered to 12 then down to 10km again. I had to stop shortly after hitting the Calder to adjust towing mirrors (another story) and I shut the car off while I got out - mistake!
When I re-started the PHEV, save mode was off and before I knew it I had 7km of EV remaining. We hadn't really started the slow Calder climb yet...
(An known annoyance with the PHEV is that it does not "remember" that you hit save when you power it off then on again.)

I hit "Save" but 15 minutes later we were down to 3 km EV range then another 10 minutes - none. I switched to "Charge" but the battery range stayed steadfastly on "--.--" for the rest of the drive up the Calder highway. It wasn't until we finally slowed to 60 km in Castlemaine an hour later that we got back 4km of battery range.

It should be noted that at no time did I "run out of power". I'll document my conclusions after the next post describing our drive back home the following day and my more-intense observations about what the PHEV graphics told me was going on.

*The Outlander PHEV has two big button near the handbrake marked "SAVE" and "CHRG".

SAVE attempts to hold the battery State Of Charge at about the same value it was when you engaged save.
CHRG attempts to charge the battery up to around 85% then hold it at that point.
If neither of these buttons are engaged the PHEV uses all the accessable battery power then holds it at a minimum value (around 27% - but gauge says empty).

Monday, January 9, 2017

Why the PHEV?

Our previous caravan tow-car was a 1967 Humber Super Snipe. We had it for 17 years and it towed our first two caravans (campers), a Goldstream Star II and later a Goldstream Storm.

The Humber dragged them safely and reliably up to Coffs Harbour (we are in Melbourne), the Blue Mountains near Sydney and various other places up the east coast of Australia.

The picture show (some of) us with the Super Snipe and Star II camper with the Parkes Radio telescope visible in the distant background.

The Super Snipe had no air conditioning so with that and Vinyl seats (faux leather?), it wasn't comfortable in the summer heat - especially long trips inland.

We recently sold the Super Snipe, still going strong, to someone who we know will take good car of her. Curiously they will be towing an A-Van.

With the kids pretty much not wanting to go caravaning any more we looked hard and finally decided to sell the Goldstream Storm and buy a camper without the pull-out beds - the Goldstream Crown. It will be easier to setup with only two of us. Our Crown will be ready for pick-up in mid February 2017.

Since my daily driver is a DIY Electric ( and Mrs EV's car is a Honda Insight (hybrid) we needed a tow car.
Mrs EV had been toying with the idea of replacing the Insight with a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) so she could be 100% electric for her drive to/from work - but didn't really like the idea of such a big vehicle for day-to-day travel. We both have difficulties with folk who drive around in 2 tonne plus vehicles with one person in them - perhaps a bit harsh but we didn't want to join the SUV/4WD commuter crowd.

So the idea of getting a PHEV and replacing the Super Snipe in the garage and using the PHEV for towing (and a spare for the 0.1% times I need longer range) was interesting. Add to that, it's an ideal vehicle to sit around with the petrol motor not running since it's designed to be a car where the petrol motor doesn't run for long periods of time. So the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - kind of had us hooked.