Attempting to broaden the appeal of its i-MiEV, all-electric vehicle, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation has launched two new versions. The new “M” version is an entry-level model with a lower sticker price of around $32,000. The “G” version will have an extended range of about 110 miles on a single charge.
Mitsubishi was the first major automaker to mass produce a zero-emissions all-electric when it introduced the i-MiEV in mid-2009. Since then, the company has sold about 10,000 of the egg-shaped vehicles worldwide. About 4,000 others have been sold with PSA Peugeot Citroen nameplates.
By comparison, Nissan Motor Company has sold about 8,500 all-electric Leaf models since the vehicle’s launch last December.
In addition to its lower sticker price, the new “M” version of the i-MiEV will also have a reduced operating range of about 75 miles on a single charge. The current i-MiEV has a range of about 100 miles.
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation president Osamu Masuko says the cost of manufacturing all-electric vehicles has “come down dramatically. He said the cost of producing EV batteries has been reduced by more than half in the past two years.
Lithium-ion batteries for the “M” version of the i-MiEV will be supplied by Toshiba Corporation. Larger capacity batteries for the “G” version will be supplied by Mitsubishi’s joint venture with GS Yuasa Corporation.
Although subsidies from the Japanese government have kept the cost of electric vehicles artificially low, Masuko said, “We will try to keep the price down even when the subsidies go away.”
Mitsubishi hopes to sell 6,000 i-MiEV models in Japan and as many as 25,000 units worldwide by next March 31.
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami have resulted in a reduced supply and the potential of higher electricity prices in Japan. Some have suggested that these factors, combined with the country’s nuclear energy crisis, could hinder domestic sales of electric vehicles like the i-MiEV.
Masuko says, “At first we wondered whether EVs could be useful in the disaster zones, and it turned out that they were because gasoline was scarce at the beginning.”
Mitsubishi loaned 89 i-MiEVs to local governments and relief agencies in disaster-affected areas of northern Japan for use in their relief efforts. Masuko said, “Once enough gasoline became available we asked whether we could have them back, but we were told they were still useful so not one has been returned yet.”
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