Jan 3, 2016: PHEV Goes Camping

Over the last few weeks I’ve been writing about our new Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) which was the logical next step in journey towards a fossil-fuel-free lifestyle. Clearly a PHEV is not fossil-fuel-free as it uses petrol to run the Hybrid drive system but, for our close-to-home trips, the Plug-in feature allows us to do most of our driving powered by the excess electricity from the solar panels on the roof of the Greeny Flat.

As I wrote in last week’s Newsletter, we have already figured out that driving on electricity is cheaper than driving on petrol but can this PHEV really do everything we need it to do? Can it successfully pull a trailer? Is it big enough for us to sleep comfortably in the back? Can it handle a road-trip loaded with camping, surfing and sailing gear and still get decent fuel economy? And can it pull all that gear up a big hill? This week we have answered all those questions with a resounding “Yep!”

Cintia and I don’t get very excited about Christmas but we felt a certain obligation to mark the transition to a New Year. So, since the forecast was for perfect beach weather and we had the opportunity to take a few days off work, we decided to go car-camping to Jervis Bay. This meant that I had to build a bed platform in the back of the Outlander. A couple of sheets of plywood and a couple of hours after work on Wednesday and we had a nice platform with some storage space underneath, just long enough for me to (almost) stretch out. I’m 184cm (6′-1″ for the oldies) so it’s a pretty good size.

Sleeping platform set up in the back of our Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Sleeping platform set up in the back of our Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Obviously it needs a mattress but, not wanting to spend any money until we’d had a chance to try it out, we cobbled together a collection of foam pads and yoga mats, loaded all our camping, surfing, sailing and beach gear into the car and onto the trailer with the Windrush catamaran, and headed for the coast.

Fully loaded and ready to go.

Fully loaded and ready to go.

We had a wonderful few days. We snorkeled at Callala Beach; watched the Huskisson fireworks display across Jervis Bay while we shared a bottle of bubbly and listened to Bob Marley; slept New Year’s Eve on the trampoline of the catamaran under the stars; circumnavigated the Bay by sail on New Year’s Day; found a perfect, deserted beach tucked under Point Perpendicular where we sunbaked and snorkeled again; had a wild ride back across the Bay with the nor’easter gusting up to about 30 knots; took the little passenger ferry over to Huskisson where there were so many tourists we couldn’t find a place to sit, eat or drink a beer so beat a hasty retreat back to the peace and beauty of Callala Bay; slept the second night (very comfortably) in the back of the Outlander next to the boatramp; watched a breathtaking sunrise from the jetty; cooked a delicious breakfast on the public BBQ; drove up to Seven Mile Beach for a lovely, early-morning surf; stopped in to Clarke Rubber in Shellharbour to buy a mattress having declared the bed experiment a resounding success; swung by the Yacht Shop at Warrawong to organise repairs to the Windrush after the beating we took crossing the Bay; then headed back up Macquarie Pass to home.

Sunrise over the jetty at Callala Bay

Sunrise over the jetty at Callala Bay

All told this was both a delightful adventure and an excellent test of the all-round capabilities of the Outlander PHEV and I have to say, it passed with flying colours. We were able to easily fit everything we needed including camping, snorkeling, surfing and sailing gear, two wetsuits, clothes for a few days, and a comfortable bed. Towing the trailer loaded with a Windrush catamaran and two surfboards was a dream… I hardly even noticed it was there and the generous mirrors on the Outlander made it easy to check that everything was riding safely. The only problem was that the reversing camera thought the trailer was an obstacle and kept up a constant and annoying warning signal whenever we had to back up. Most impressively, in spite of being heavily loaded and having to drive up two big hills (once through Kangaroo Valley to get to Nowra and once up Macquarie Pass to get home) we still managed to get very good mileage out of the last tank of petrol.

This time around we drove 585 miles since the previous fill-up and used a total of 27.22 litres of E10 Unleaded petrol. That equates to an average of 4.7L/100km which is even better than the 4.9L/100km we got last time. With the PHEV, this is entirely a function of how many times we were able to charge it. During this tank of fuel we also put 60.54kWh of electricity into the batteries (compared to the 30.6kWh during the last tank-full) so we did a lot more driving on electric which skews the fuel-economy figures. What I’m realising is that I don’t have actual figures on the fuel-economy that the Hybrid system gets without additional plug-in electricity. So I’m going to drive it for a few days without charging it up then fill it up again and see how much petrol it uses on Hybrid only.

Meanwhile, one of our readers has pointed out that a hidden advantage of having regenerative braking (which means we can drive with very little use of the brake pedal) is that we should have greatly reduced wear and maintenance required on the brake system.

Our next road-trip will probably be up to Tamworth where a couple of my cousins will be playing at the Country Music Festival in a couple of weeks. We’re excited to try out our new mattress on that trip and see how the car performs on a longer, flatter road-trip. We’ll keep you posted.

Our new mattress waiting to be tested.

Our new mattress waiting to be tested.

8 comments to Jan 3, 2016: PHEV Goes Camping

  • Robert


    I have just been looking at the photo of the bed in the Outlander.

    I am interested , did you have any issues getting in the vehicle from the rear door. Please.

    With bed assembled do the seats have to be slid forward or can the top section be hinged to facilitate driving and sleeping combinations.



    Any measurements for wood greatly appreciated.

    • admin

      Hi Robert,

      The bed in the back of the Outlander works well for us. We managed to find a mattress at Clark Rubber that was the perfect size. I think it is 1800 by 1200. It is a little tricky getting in and out due to not much headroom between the bed and the top of the doors. But we manage. I am a bit over six foot but skinny and reasonably flexible. The seats won’t go all the way back with the bed in place but far enough to where I can drive without having to move the bed although I usually lean the driver’s seat forward a bit at night to give me a little bit more sleeping room. You’d almost have to come and see the frame in order to understand how I built it and you’re most welcome to do that if you are anywhere near Mittagong.
      Cheers, Andy

  • mark

    Did you use the heater or ac while sleeping at night? Can those be used with electricity from the battery or does the car engine have to run?

    • admin

      HI Mark, sorry for the very slow response. I only just saw your comment. To answer your question, no, we don’t use the heater or the A/C while we’re sleeping in the car. I think you can run them on the battery but only for a short time as they would both use a lot of energy.

  • Richard


    I’m kinda late to the party, lol. But was wondering if you happened to have a floor plan of this design? I love the concept! I have an outlander as well and have been trying to find something to fit my car.

    • admin

      Hi Richard and sorry for the VERY slow response, I’m afraid I didn’t see your comment until just now. And I’m sorry to say I haven’t drawn anything for the bed in the back of the Outlander. I just grabbed some timber and plywood I had left over and threw it together.

  • Alan Hagge

    Thanks so much for publishing this – it’s very helpful to get an idea of whether sleeping inside of an Outlander PHEV is possible.

    Question – I’m 6″5′ (196cm) – If one were to make a foldable “flap” on the front of your platform and move the front seats to the full-forward and folded-forward position, could the platform be extended to, say 200cm?

    • admin

      Thanks Alan, I’m 6’1″ and I can just fit in the back with the seats moved forward a bit. I just checked and if I move the seats all the way forward there is at least another 8 inches of space to work with so, yes, I think it would be possible to make a bed that would work for you. The other thing to consider is the headroom. I’m pretty skinny and flexible so I can manage to get into the bed without any trouble but there’s not a great deal of space between the top of the mattress and the ceiling of the car. So if you’re large-framed or not particularly flexible you might find it pretty challenging. If you’re anywhere near Mittagong you’re welcome to come and have a look at the set up and see if you can get in and out. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

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