Mitsubishi glove-slaps VW with turbine-regen Mi-Tech electric buggy
This time a week ago, Volkswagen was probably thinking it had the electric concept buggy segment all sewn up. It had the dune buggy history, the MEB modular electric platform, and even the retro-chic bright-green tub. What it didn't have was anyone stealing its auto show spotlight with a buggy of their own. Mitsubishi did just that at this week's Tokyo Motor Show, leveraging its experience with electrified all-wheel drives to debut the Mi-Tech Concept.
Like VW's ID. Buggy, the Mi-Tech enjoys a breezy topless, doorless design and plenty of electric torque. But it adds a boxy, muscular stance, three extra motors plus a turbine generator, and some serious "Mitsubishi-ness" (the company's word, not ours).
If the ID. Buggy is a primped labradoodle strutting the floor of Westminster, the Mi-Tech Concept is a junkyard Rottweiler mix chewing on chainlink fence. Put another way, the Mi-Tech looks better prepared to smash through concrete barricades than to get bikini-clad coeds giggling as it kicks up sand and surf. Which is a good thing. In fact, its stout, vertical iteration of Mitsubishi's "Dynamic Shield" front-end treatment is exactly the type of "gently modernized old-school 4x4" look we were hoping to see land on the new Land Rover Defender ... but alas.
Moving back from the T-shaped headlights on that broad face, the level hood, exaggerated fender flares over large-diameter tires, and integrated doorway steps add to the Mi-Tech's powerful, overbuilt presence. The rear end is a little more styled and nuanced, taking the form of a concave hexagon flanked by wraparound taillamps pinching the upper corners of the over fenders.
Powering the Mi-Tech through bottomless sand and tacky loam is a four-motor electric drive of undisclosed output. Mitsubishi's front and rear dual-motor active yaw control (AYC) works with the electric braking to vary wheel spin and maintain traction, in situations ranging from dual wheels free-spinning in the air over uneven off-road terrain to slick, sloppy highway fishtailing. And for some pure fun, the system's left/right counter-rotation capabilities make child's play of WRC-grade tricks like 180-degree spins.
Ensuring fast battery drain doesn't end a day of blissful adventure, the Mi-Tech employs a turbine-driven generator to keep the cells powered up. Mitsubishi explains that this layout saves space and weight over the more traditional gas engine generator, keeping the Mi-Tech compact, light and nimble. The clean-burning turbine system can operate on a variety of fuels, including kerosene, diesel and alcohol.
Mitsubishi keeps driver and navigator focused on the road (or sand, mud, rock ...) ahead by cleaning up the interior. The dashboard face is nothing more than a body-color strip with sliced vents while the instrument panel is reduced to a compact digital display. The windshield becomes a part of the HMI (human-machine interface), as information gathered from the array of exterior optical sensors gets projected straight on the glass, augmented-reality style. The Mi-Pilot system makes use of those sensors in delivering next-generation levels of driver assistance on road and off.
Volkswagen may have newfound competition, but the win is there for its taking. The ID. Buggy might earn itself a trip to production, but we just don't see the Mi-Tech following suit. The Mi-Tech does foreshadow Mitsubishi's electrified-vehicle expansion plans, which will include midsize and compact SUVs by 2022, along with a Kei car in the near future. Mitsubishi intends to become the Japanese PHEV leader.