Without wanting to mimic a particular marketing tagline, I loved that car.

As an off-gridding family of six years, it had always been our intention to add a hybrid electric vehicle to the mix and start gradually replacing the internal combustion engine (ICE) cars we’d relied on to do all the ‘parent taxi’ stuff each week.

Hubby and I settled on the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and, finding a good deal through a dealership in Adelaide ($48k for the 2018 model with a low 3000kms on the clock) treated ourselves to a little road trip to bring it home.

Thus commenced my love affair with EVs. I ogled Teslas in the traffic. Gazed at Prii* in parking spaces. Looked at LEAFs sucking juice at shopping centre charge points.

But most of all I drove my beautiful new PHEV in the slightly smug knowledge that my transport emissions were greatly reduced.

Wanting to take full advantage of the battery engine, I calculated my average weekly commute at around 500kms – a figure that surprised me – and set about reducing my petrol consumption to a bare minimum.

Using a range of charge-location smartphone apps to compliment my 10amp home powerpoint, I was able to tweak my driving and charging behaviour to achieve maximum battery engine usage.

On regular routes, such as the school run, I studied the lumps and dips in the roads like Eddie the Eagle eyeing his first Calgary slope, working out which ones I could use my flappy paddle regen braking on and which intersectional traffic lights phased well so I didn’t have to touch the foot brake.

Throughout last winter, with several periods of cloud cover above us and our home’s off-grid 48v battery bank depleting in front of us, the ICE got more of a look-in, but the dull days, combined with my kids’ constant whining for groceries made the free 30amp plug at the local town centre an attractive and practical stop point.

Towards the end of November I was averaging around ten bucks of petrol each week for my regular 500km+ run. Of course, this was immensely helped by the fact I worked from home and could charge up while the sun was shining with little to no impact on the battery state of charge.

Then I parked my lovely red PHEV in a bushfire.

The 7th December 2018 was a 44 degree day with gusty winds up to 65kph and a grass curing level of almost 100% when a someone near my home town allegedly started up some faulty machinery. That bit is still in the hands of investigating police.

The result was 250 brave firefighting personnel, seven helitaks, two large air tankers and over 1200 hectares of blackened paddocks, that took with it one shed, several sheep and my Outlander PHEV.

As lost assets after a bushfire go, it wasn’t a bad result. But personally, I’ve had better days.

(Just for the record, I left the car at a police checkpoint to join my brigade tanker to fight the fire. When I returned 5 hours later, this was all that was left. With the benefit of hindsight, I consider myself extremely lucky that the PHEV batteries didn’t ignite; note the burnt grass under the vehicle.)

Once I’d run through the usual gamut of emotions – mostly manifesting in a quivering lip while trying not to cry in front of sooty firefighters – the PHEV was towed, claimed, written off and a new one en route from wherever they’re made, arriving at my door sometime in the next few weeks.

But, this leaves me in a quandary.

Knowing what I know now about the relative ease with which I slotted a PHEV and charging time into my day-to-day, should I hang onto a brand spanking new 2019 PHEV (thank goodness for new car replacement insurance policy) or think about trading it in for a BEV?

Being off-grid with a 5.5kW system that was designed to provide the household energy needs of our family of four means charging an EV overnight isn’t really feasible.

We cycle our lead-acid batteries between 80 and 100% SOC to prolong their lifespan and a full charge in the dark drops us to the low 80s, meaning we have to be pretty confident about the BOM’s forecast for a sunny sunrise the next day.

But, could I wing it for a while with a BEV, using a combination of home and public charge points, with a plan to add a diesel generator in future to top up our off-grid system if need be? Or should I look into increasing our system size in the near future?

And, if I move over to a BEV, what would I get that offers the reliability and size of the Outlander PHEV…or to put it another way, which of the family-budget-friendly EVs hitting the market in 2019 could face a bushfire and remain remarkably intact, albeit damaged beyond cost-efficient repair? 

*According to a 2011 press release from Toyota, the plural of Prius is Prii.

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