Plugged in to the community

Hutt City Mayor Ray Wallace has a new set of wheels: he says his ‘Crystal Blue’ Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) signals the ‘green’ direction he envisages for the city.

“We have a dedicated Green Team to coordinate environmental and sustainability projects; they were rapt that I got the PHEV,” he says. “We are looking to take a stand for the environment and I think driving a hybrid is a good start.”

Mayor Wallace’s travel itinerary changes from day to day, but the lion’s share of his daily journeys can be covered with zero fuel consumption and zero on-road CO2 emissions. That’s thanks to the PHEV’s battery-powered front and rear 60kW motors. Fully charged, the lithium-ion battery has a range of just over 50km. “It’s cut my fuel spend by 85%! I used to drive a gas guzzler; it was powerful but expensive to run.”

To recharge his PHEV, the mayor has had a regular three-pin socket installed at his office parking space, housed in a small plastic bollard and secured by padlock. “It’s so easy to use: you just park up and plug in!

We’ve measured the cost and it’s only $1.44 to fully recharge [in about 6.5 hours]. I’m keen to encourage local businesses to install re-charging stations to stimulate others to get into these vehicles as well.”

He says that people are interested that he drives a hybrid, and adds that having more conversations about innovative engineering plays well with the way in which Hutt City is promoting itself as ‘Technology Valley’. “I really want to show that we’re keeping up with new technology and this vehicle reflects that.”

Outlander PHEV is certainly one switched-on vehicle, packed with features designed to deliver an exceptional driving experience and cheaper running costs. The car automatically selects from three driving modes, depending on conditions and battery level, to ensure the best possible performance: EV drive (electric motor only); series hybrid (electric motor with assistance from the 2.0L petrol engine); parallel hybrid (engine and motor in unison). Regenerative braking technology recharges the battery when the driver brakes. It even has its own smartphone app.

“It’s pretty impressive,” says the mayor. “Another thing I love about the Outlander is that it has the space, comfort and power that some of the smaller hybrids on the market lack. It’s great to drive.”

Hutt City Council is ahead of the curve, led by an environmentally conscious, tech-savvy council and a mayor who doesn’t just talk the talk. “I hope over time all 70 vehicles in our fleet will become hybrids. It’s the future and we need to invest in it.”