Who said concept cars had to be exciting to look at? Oh, wait…
Mitsubishi has been on something of a roll of late. The storied Japanese marque spent most of the past decade flirting with stateside irrelevance, offering little to American customers save the much-lauded Lancer Evolution sedan. With the launch of the current Lancer and Outlander, the red-diamond firm essentially bet the farm on two platforms, revamping its showroom lineup in an effort to remake the brand and land new customers.
Although Mitsubishi’s U.S. fortunes continue to waver — the Lancer, Lancer Evolution, and Outlander are good cars but not outstanding sellers — the marque is nevertheless plowing ahead with its vision of the future. The PX-MiEV concept, a plug-in hybrid with a 114-hp gasoline-powered four-cylinder, is part of that vision.
The PX-MiEV may look fairly ordinary, but the technology under its skin is interesting. Two electric motors, one for the front wheels and one for the rear, work in concert with the gas four to offer either front- or four-wheel drive depending on conditions. The engine serves as both a generator for the twin motors and a source of propulsion; the amount of assist and/or charge that it provides varies with load and vehicle speed. Plug-in charging is accomplished using either a 100- or 200-volt power supply, and a high-power, quick-charge setup is also available. If that weren’t enough, the PX-MiEV’s power system can be set up to shuttle power back onto the grid while plugged in during peak usage hours. Fuel economy is a claimed 117 mpg.
Like many Tokyo show concepts, the PX-MiEV is stuffed full of electronic wizardry and quasi-useful tech gimmicks. An odor-based driver alertness monitor — yes, that’s right; if you get drowsy, it starts to stink — lives in the cockpit, as does bacteria-neutralizing seat fabric, a humidifier, an oxygen regulator, and so-called “anti-aging” window glass. All-wheel drive, Mitsubishi’s E-AYC active yaw control system, and air suspension round things out.
Sound like a hospital room cloaked in a tame, inoffensive sheet metal skin? You’re not far off. Don’t expect to see the PX-MiEV’s interior oddities in a showroom any time soon. The truck’s styling cues, on the other hand, are likely to find their way onto the next version of Mitsubishi’s Endeavor SUV.