Mitsubishi Partnering with California and Oregon to Bring Electric Cars to Market

After my test drive of the Mitsubishi i MiEV at the 2008 LA Auto Show yesterday, I walked away with the distinct feeling that Mistubishi has designed a sporty, relatively spacious, and well-thought-out winner of an electric car.

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Mitsubishi is currently testing the i MiEV in California in collaboration with Southern California Edison. Additionally, according to Mitsubishi executive, David Patterson, the company is in negotiations to partner with Oregon after Nissan announced its new electric car partnership with the state on Wednesday. I guess everybody wants to get in on the Oregon action.

My feeling that the i MiEV — regardless of its awful name — is a winner, was heavily reinforced after comparing the it to the Mini E electric car in a different test drive later in the day. Of the two, it seems the engineers at Mitsubishi have a better grasp of what people will like in an electric car and took care to make sure consumers had the choices they’ll want..

For instance, the i MiEV has room for four adults (and some storage space in the back of the car to boot). It also has a way to switch between an economy mode, in which the driving range is extended and regenerative braking is used to it’s fullest, and a normal mode where the car behaves more like a conventional car when it comes to braking (see my post from yesterday about the Mini E to learn more about this issue).

The i MiEV has a top speed of 81 mph, making it highway legal, and can go up to 100 miles on a single charge. The car is based on Mitsubishi’s “i” gas-powered compact car already on sale in Japan. The 47 kW (63 hp) electric motor has improved handling and acceleration characteristics over the 64 hp gas engine in the “i” car, and is powered by a 330 volt lithium ion battery.

When I asked David Patterson about an expected on-sale date to the general public in the US, he said that there’ll probably be about a year and a half of testing the i MiEV in Southern California (and maybe Oregon) before they can start thinking about releasing it to the general public. So I’m guessing it’ll be at least 2010 before you’ll be able to purchase one in the US — and even then it might be restricted to certain geographic locations.

 

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.