Beginning this summer, a small EV from Mitsubishi will be available on the market in Japan. The i MiEV will be the first mass scale EV production car available from any major auto manufacturer. Although a seemingly unlikely coup, Mitsubishi has been quietly putting great effort into EV development for many years.
The i MiEV, based on a popular Kei car model called “i” in Japan, has been developed during a joint research project on commercial electric vehicles with a number of electric power companies for the last several years. Recently, the Japanese government and Lawson, the second largest convenience store chain in Japan, started testing the i MiEV in fleet operation.
Mitsubishi has mostly been testing their EVs in Japan, but recently they’ve started seeking customers in the global market. Last year, they started working with U.S. power companies to bring their EVs to the United States. Earlier this year, the Nikkei newspaper reported that Mitsubishi will supply their EVs to PSA Peugeot Citroën of France in 2010, and they plan to sell more than ten thousand units a year by 2011 or later. Also, Mitsubishi and Meridian Energy recently announced a partnership to test the EVs in New Zealand.
It’s true that sleek looking new EVs such as the Tesla Roadster have been making the big headlines lately. Sure they look cool and exciting, but they are way too expensive for most people. Electric cars like Mitsubishi’s i MiEV could be the affordable and interesting choice of consumers over hybrids if the price is competitive enough. Will small EVs like Mitsubishi’s i MiEV lead the EV market and become competitive with hybrids in the coming years?
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Source: Nikkei Newspaper online (Japanese and English sites)
All Pictures taken by Tetsuya Yokoyama