Mitsubishi abandons in-wheel motors for electric car, still no plans to bring it to the U.S.

Mitsubishi's annoucement of the "i MiEV" electric vehicle based on their "i" minicar has so far caused a bit of a stir. First, Automotive News reported that the car would be headed for the States. Then CNN said that the report was incorrect. Then, in a new article on Monday, AutoWeek, a sister publication of Automotive News, stated that Mitsubishi was still planning to bring the electric car to North America.

In all the confusion, we contacted Dan Irvin, director of corporate communications and public relations for Mitsubishi Motors North America, ourselves to get an official confirmation. In his response, Mr. Irvin said, "There is no current plan to bring an electric vehicle to the United States. MMC in Tokyo has clarified this point with Mr. Treece, the author of the article that you reference... Thanks for checking with us."

That aside, the development of the "i MiEV" is still moving forward. The rest of AutoWeek's article from Monday reports that Mitsubishi has abandoned the four in-wheel motors for a single motor which will power the two rear wheels. The reasons for this come down to conversion cost as the more traditional layout requires fewer modifications. Supposedly, the only major change to the "i" minicar's chassis comes in the form of reinforcing the rear cross member to support the weight of the batteries and motor.

As for timetables, Mitsubishi forsees a relatively quick development process. Next month, they'll begin joint research on the car with three Japanese electric utility companies. Currently, the EV gets an 80-mile range from its 330-volt lithium-ion batteries which provide 16 kilowatt-hours of energy. By the fall of 2007, the company hopes to supply five utilities with several dozen test-fleet cars that are capable of a 100-mile range using a 20-kwh power supply.

[Source: AutoWeek / Mitsubishi Motors North America]

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