By John Addison (updated 10/14/11; original 11/22/10)
Fall 2011 Sales Start for New Mitsubishi i Electric Car
At the LA Auto Show, I grinned at the new 2012 Mitsubishi i and the battery-electric car grinned back at me. In June I had fun test driving the Mitsubishi iMiEV, the best selling electric car in Japan. The iMiEV had the steering wheel on the right and every time I hit the “turn signal” the windshield wipers swooshed on that sunny day. Now the new Mitsubishi electric car has arrived for the U.S. market, with the steering wheel where we want it, a five inch bigger wheel base and ready for U.S. dealer sales in the fall of 2011. Mitsubishi is ahead of schedule.
The official name for the U.S. version is the 2012 Mitsubishi i (small “i”), Powered by MiEV Technology. Because this 4-seat city car weighs only 2,381 pounds, about 1,000 pounds less than the larger Nissan LEAF, the Mitsubishi i only needs a 16 kWh lithium battery pack; the LEAF needs 24kWh. This gives Mitsubishi a major cost advantage. This pure-electric city car can now be reserved starting at $29,195 (pretty close to my guess in the original article). Mitsubishi will challenge the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, and Honda Fit Electric.
Compacts are the most popular size for first time buyers who are watching their budget, yet want at least four doors, at least four seats, safety, a sporty feel, and electronic entertainment. The Nissan LEAF fits this bill. The smaller Mitsubishi i is a micro-compact city car that squeezes in four people and some cargo. Yet my test drive of both shows that the Mitsubishi has the performance and handling of the LEAF. Both safely accelerate to freeway speeds. The LEAF targets a 100 mile electric range; the Mitsubishi i targets 85. Both have Eco modes and invite longer range with careful driving.
No doubt, the enthusiasm for the Nissan LEAF caused Mitsubishi to speed their new EV to U.S. markets. Over 50,000 Nissan LEAFs will be delivered before customers start receiving their Mitsubishi i. In 2012, however, the big competition for the below $30,000 electric cars may come from the Honda Fit EV, the Ford Focus Electric, the Smart ED, and Toyota’s new electric city car the Scion IQ EV.
Someone working with Honda stated that the new Fit EV will be priced well below $30,000. We will see. Low price speculation preceded the Insight and we were disappointed. Honda may decide to get aggressive with EV pricing. 2012 will the year of the electric car battle for market share. If oil prices soar above $100 per barrel, then electric cars and plug-in hybrids may be adopted faster than the original Prius hybrid.
Mitsubishi, in truth, will not be the first with an electric car below $30,000. There are 40,000 25-mph electric cars that have been on U.S. streets for years, some priced below $10,000. Mitsubishi is part of the race for the first four-seat freeway-speed electric car to be priced in the U.S. below $30,000.
As any European will tell you, these small cars have major advantages in cities, such as grabbing the parking space too big for others and saving $20 per day, or $30, or $50 in daily parking. My 5 foot, 10 inch frame, fit easily in the driver’s seat of the smaller MiEV and in the back seat of the 4-seater. Parallel parking was a breeze. Just nose in, turn off the car, and walk away.
In the U.S., Mitsubishi is partnering with Eaton who had two charging units on display with the Mitsubishi i. Eaton offers a 220v, J1772 charger, and a larger EV Quick Charger currently based on the TEPCO fast charger popular in Japan. These chargers will be available through Best Buys which has been testing the MiEV in Geek Squads. Eaton, a long time supplier of distribution equipment to electric utilities, is becoming a major force in many areas of smart grid and smart charging. (Disclosure: author currently owns stock in Eaton).
2012 Mitsubishi I, Powered by MiEV Technology
- Dimensions (L x W x H) = 133 x 58 x 63 (2012 USA expected to be wider
- Vehicle Weight = 2,381 lb
- Maximum Speed = 80 mph
- Electric Range 85 miles
- Charge Time = 6 to 7 hours with J1772 (220v / 15 amp)
- 14 hours (110v / 15 amps)
- 80% in 30 min (2012 = 18 min) with Fast Charger (Level 3 200v / 50kW TEPCO)
- Motor = 64 hp (47kW) Permanent Magnet Synchronous
- Torque 133 lb-ft
- 8,500 rpm
- Lithium Batteries = 16 kWh with 88 cells made by Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture company of GS Yuasa Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.