Entre las principales características del i-MiEV destacan el tener unas emisiones cero de dióxido de carbono, ya que únicamente utiliza electricidad para su funcionamiento, lo que según la compañía, puede suponer una reducción considerable del coste de uso del automóvil, en función de las tarifas de las compañías eléctricas.
Mitsubishi señaló que este vehículo produce una experiencia de conducción silenciosa, al no contar con un motor de combustión interna. La compañía resaltó que la autonomía máxima de este coche se sitúa en 160 kilómetros, lo que es una cifra "más que suficiente para un coche utilitario de uso urbano".
Este modelo ofrece la posibilidad de cargar la batería eléctrica de tres formas diferentes. La primera de ellas con 200 voltios y durante unas 7 horas para la carga total, la segunda con 100 voltios y una duración de 14 horas y la tercera con 200 voltios en tres fases, con una duración de 30 minutos que recarga el 80% de la batería.
La firma señaló que este vehículo saldrá a la venta en Japón con un precio de 4,59 millones de yenes (33.734 euros), impuestos incluidos.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. to sell i-MiEV electric car to Japanese public from next April
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said Friday it will roll out the "i-MiEV" electric vehicle to individual customers in Japan from April 2010 and start taking orders from late next month as the company counts on the zero-emission car to revive its slumping sales.
The egg-shaped hatchback will first be released mainly to corporate clients from late July for a retail price of 4.59 million yen, including taxes.
Mitsubishi Motors President Osamu Masuko said the actual price for consumers will be lowered to around 3.2 million yen by using government subsidies for fuel-efficient cars. Local government subsidies in places such as Kanagawa Prefecture will bring that price below the 3 million yen level, officials said.
Mitsubishi Motors will be among the first to mass-produce a four-seater electric vehicle that can actually travel a distance of 160 kilometers at cruising speed once charged and reach a top speed of 130 km per hour.
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. also plans to release its Subaru Plug-in Stella electric car in July for 4.73 million yen while Nissan Motor Co. is set on launching its own EV in both Japan and the United States in fiscal 2010.
The Japanese automaker aims to sell about 1,400 units for the current business year through March 2010. Masuko said the company has already received robust orders, mostly from electric power companies and local governments, that have exceeded its initial target.
The company began mass production of its EV from Thursday at its factory in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, and plans to produce 5,000 units in fiscal 2010 and about 15,000 units by fiscal 2011.
Japanese battery maker GS Yuasa Corp. President Makoto Yoda said he is considering building a new plant so their joint venture company, Lithium Energy Japan, can produce enough lithium ion batteries to meet Mitsubishi Motors’ output targets.
"I can assure you that we will not cause any trouble for Mitsubishi Motors regarding battery supplies," Yoda said at the i-MiEV press conference in Tokyo.
Mitsubishi Motors also plans to release the i-MiEV later this year in Britain, Hong Kong and other right-hand-drive territories. It aims for an initial sales target of about 250 units in fiscal 2009.
It intends to introduce left-hand-drive models of the i-MiEV in other parts of Europe from the latter half of 2010 and aims for global sales of 1,000 units in fiscal 2010, Masuko said.
"We believe that by introducing the all-electric i-MiEV to the market we are taking on the challenge of developing top-class technology and heading toward a new age." Masuko said the company eventually aims to have 20 percent of its global vehicle production in electric cars by 2020 and seeks to turn some of its compact cars and delivery vans into EVs.
The automaker also plans to unveil a plug-in hybrid at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show scheduled for this autumn and market it by around fiscal 2013 to meet consumer demand for bigger cars with a longer driving range.
The i-MiEV, based on the layout platform of the company’s "i"-series minicar, emits no carbon dioxide when running since it is powered by lithium ion batteries produced via a joint venture with GS Yuasa and trading house Mitsubishi Corp.
Even if CO2 emissions from the power plants that generate electricity for the vehicle are factored in, the model emits only 30 percent of the CO2 produced by gasoline-powered cars of the same size, according to the automaker.
The company, which sank into the red in fiscal 2008, is hoping that its new electric vehicle will be able to spur auto demand and improve its corporate image, which has been damaged by safety issues and a recent scandal over the arrest of employees.
But analysts said EVs are likely to receive a more lukewarm reaction than best-selling hybrids rolled out by Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. in view of long-standing hurdles including the high price and lack of infrastructure such as high-speed chargers.
"Given the uncertainty over when the age of electric cars is really going to kick off, it is a risk to count on them," Tatsuya Mizuno, former auto analyst at Fitch Ratings in Tokyo and current representative of Mizuno Credit Advisory, said.
Masuko admits the company needs to mass produce about 30,000 units in order for the i-MiEV to be profitable and affordable.
"We believe infrastructure development and pricing are the main challenges to promote electric cars," Masuko said.
Despite the expensive price of EVs in comparison with hybrid cars, the cost of charging the battery is only about one-third the cost of the fuel needed for a gasoline car to travel the same distance, according to the automaker.
i-MiEVs can be charged using the household power supply grid in 7 hours with a 200-volt charger and in 14 hours with a 100-volt charger. Using a high-speed charger can shorten that time to just half an hour.
"If we think about the auto industry 10 years or 20 years from now, it is unacceptable for Japanese automakers to lag behind in the global competition," Masuko said. "We want to establish a globally competitive technology with electric vehicles…and make this the pillar of our business."