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Tokyo show: Mitsubishi Mi-Tech concept runs deep

Future small SUV cues, plug-in hybrid, other tech seen in Mitsubishi Tokyo concept

Mitsubishi logo23 Oct 2019

MITSUBISHI has unveiled an intriguing compact crossover concept, dubbed the Mi-Tech, at the Tokyo motor show today, drawing plenty of attention with its muscular dunebuggy bodywork and evocative rear turbines while also bearing clues to the next-generation ASX and future plug-in hybrid powertrains.

 

Clearly related to the Engelberg Tourer concept shown in Geneva in March that previews the next medium/large Outlander due in 2020, the Mi-Tech has a bold front end with a fresh interpretation of Mitsubishi’s trademark Dynamic Shield face that should be reflected in the forthcoming new-generation ASX.

 

The small SUV has just received a late-life facelift in Australia, but a fully redesigned version is expected to emerge next year and, as the Mi-Tech concept amply demonstrates, is all but certain to include a plug-in hybrid powertrain option as Mitsubishi recommits to the technology rather than flicks the switch to full-electric power.

 

Ditto for the slightly larger Eclipse Cross, which should pick up an PHEV option when it undergoes a major mid-life overhaul next year.

 

The company’s intentions were made amply clear by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) chief executive Takao Kato, who said in Tokyo: “We are dedicated to electrification technology, particularly plug-in hybrids.

 

“We will be expanding our line-up of electrified vehicles by delivering more variations and leveraging the diverse electrification technology in the alliance (which includes Nissan and Renault) to make MMC the leader in the PHEV category going forward.”

 

MMC chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta, who will soon leave the role to become dominant alliance partner Nissan Motor Co’s COO, added that “MMC plans to employ any of its electrification technologies to new mid-size and compact SUV by 2022 as well as kei car (city car) in the near future”.

 

The Mi-Tech features a new kind of range-extending plug-in hybrid drivetrain with a lightweight and compact gas turbine engine-generator in place of a traditional petrol combustion engine.

 

The rear turbines look to have a practical purpose in feeding air to the compact rear-mounted engine that can run on a variety of fuels – diesel, kerosene and alcohol are listed, allowing for clean-burning sources – and, in the range-extender style, acts as a generator to charge the battery pack under the floor.

 

The battery in turn powers the electric motors, which in this case are arranged in a quad-motor set-up – two on each axle, enabling four-wheel drive.

 

Owners can still plug in to an electricity source to recharge the battery pack, but this compact and potentially cleaner flex-fuel range-extending design allows for a longer driving range than would be available with purely electric propulsion.

 

MMC has not provided specifications, saying only that the gas turbine engine-generator has a powerful output for its size and weight, but the Mi-Tech’s drivetrain at least provides us with an insight into the Japanese motor company’s R&D direction and technology we might expect to see on forthcoming new models.

 

“As environmental awareness grows and downsizing progresses, the concept explores the technological proposition to plug the PHEV drivetrain into a small SUV,” the company said.

 

As we have seen before, Mitsubishi has integrated the quad-motor system with its Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system, which includes front and rear active yaw control (monitoring steering angle, yaw rate, driving torque, brake pressure, wheel speed and other parameters) for safe and sporty handling.

 

This works in concert with electric brake callipers used on the concept, which MMC claims allows for “high response, high accuracy control of drive and braking force of the four wheels while delivering a drastic improvement in turning and traction performance”.

 

The car-maker also notes that the quad-motor and electric braking combination enables the left and right wheels to be effectively counter-rotated to deliver “thrilling new driving experiences such as 180-degree spins”.

 

Other innovations on-board the Mi-Tech concept includes a human machine interface (HMI) as the main item in the minimalist cabin which displays various information detected through “sensing” technology including optical sensors on an augmented reality (AR) windscreen.

 

Mitsubishi’s next-generation driver assistance safety technology, known as Mi-Pilot, also extends to functionality on unpaved roads.

 

The concept’s off-road potential is reinforced by various elements such as aluminium skid plates and large chunky tyres housed within oversized and flared wheelarches.

 

The company says the large and bold hexagonal shape of the rear end is designed to emphasise “the robustness of SUV”.

 

Copper colour highlights across the light blue body and cockpit are used to reinforce the fact that this is an electrified vehicle.


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