Mitsubishi – the First Electric Car for $29,195

Mitsubishi – the First Electric Car for $29,195

2012 Mitsubishi iBy 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.
Mitsubishi i Electric Car 2012 U.S. Model

Mitsubishi i Electric Car 2012 U.S. Model

iMiEV Test DriveBy John Addison (update 11/3/11; original 6/4/10)

Test Drive of Japan’s Most Popular Electric Car

Fortunately, the new 2012 U.S. Mitsubishi i will have the steering wheel on the standard left side, because I am struggling with this test drive of the 2010 iMiEV Japanese version. Steering from the right-hand side is not so bad, but every time I use the “turn signal lever” the windshield wipers start flying. This is going to be a safe test drive, because the other drivers on this San Jose street are giving me lots of room.

Bring on the traffic; this little car has plenty of acceleration due to the torque of the electric motor. Although it is only 2,276 pounds, it feels solid due to a low-center of gravity with the lithium batteries embedded in the floor of the vehicle and the electric motor in the rear, providing real-wheel drive. Mitsubishi has done a good job of balancing the vehicles weight, which is easier to do in an electric car than one with an ICE with everything linked in the drive system. When I hit the brakes, stopping was quick but a bit uneven.

The 5-door hatchback feels like a roomy sub-compact inside. My 5 foot, 10 inch frame, fit easily in the driver’s seat and in the back seat of this 4-seater. The car is definitely designed for the urban environment. Parallel parking is a breeze, just nose in, turn off the car, and walk away. Mitsubishi is well experienced with small urban vehicles. Almost 40,000 of the 660 cc gasoline engine version of this vehicle have been sold since 2005.

Mitsubishi iMiEV is already being driven by 5,000 owners in Japan and Europe. Mitsubishi’s President Osamu Masuko drives this electric car today.

Bigger U.S. Mitsubishi i on Sale Now

Mitsubishi has started taking orders for the 2012 U.S. version of the popular iMiEV with a starting price of $29,125, over $5,000 less than the 2012 Nissan LEAF. Because Mitsubishi only uses a 16 kW lithium battery pack, they can undercut Nissan’s pricing with the LEAF using 24 kW.

The U.S. model will have steering wheel will be where you want it. The wheel base will be 5 inches wider for the U.S. market, but the micro-compact will still be able to get those precious city parking spaces that no other car can take by the smart. The more powerful U.S. version will have an electric range of 85 miles between charging in real world driving. Mitsubishi cautions that some of its competitors are advertising ranges that will not be experienced by most drivers. The Mitsubishi i includes an Eco mode that helps range by limiting excess power going to the motor and captures more regen energy on downhill. The high-energy batteries are made by Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture company of GS Yuasa Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.

Living in San Francisco, I see Mercedes smart cars everywhere, boastfully perched in neglected parking spots, saving the owners $20 per day in parking lot fees. Soon those smart cars will have to race for the spots and the Mitsubishi electric car can beat them every time.

Specfications

  • Dimensions (L x W x H) = 133 x 58 x 63 (2012 USA expected to be 5″ wider)
  • Vehicle Weight = 2,376 lb (2010; 2012 USA expected to add 100 to 200 lb)
  • Maximum Speed = 80 mph
  • Electric Range 85 miles (62 miles EPA adjusted)
  • 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 113 lb-ft
  • Lithium Batteries = 16 kWh with 88 cells

Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Electric Car Makers

Comparison of Mitsubishi i and Nissan LEAF