At a press conference here in New York in a few minutes, Mitsubishi representatives will officially announce that the i-MiEV electric vehicle - already a hit in test drives and displays the world over - will be coming to the U.S. This move has been hinted at for a long while, but now we know for certain that the electric jellybean, based on the "i" minicar, is coming. Official details are scarce, but company representatives told us ahead of schedule that the car would be available here sometime "before 2012." The problem isn't the technology (a left-hand drive model should go on sale in Europe in 2011 after the right-hand model hits Japan this summer and the UK, maybe in 2010), but guaranteeing a supply of lithium. If GS Yuasa can't produce the batteries, then Mitsubishi can't make the cars. Mitsubishi recently upped production plans in order to make 20,000 units a year. But don't get too attached to the i-MiEV name (which stands for "Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle"); when this car comes to the U.S., it'll get a fresh moniker.
Speaking of the iMiEV; it looks like AutoblogGreen readers know a good thing when they see one. The iMiEV dominated our recent poll of which car should win the World Car of the Year's 'World Green Car' over the Honda FCX Clarity and the Toyota iQ. The judges of the event, though, disagreed and picked the hydrogen fuel cell Clarity as the 2009 winner this morning.
Quick update: Mitsubishi's press release pasted after the jump.
Show photos Copyright ©2009 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.
MITSUBISHI SHOWCASES i-MiEV ELECTRIC VEHICLE AT THE 2009 NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW
Left-hand drive concept hints at future U.S. possibilities
NEW YORK, April 9, 2009 – The electric vehicle race charges ahead as Mitsubishi Motors conducts the North American debut of a Left-Hand-Drive prototype of its battery electric i-MiEV at the New York International Auto Show. Based on the Japanese market "i" minicar, the four-door i-MiEV replaces the i's conventional gasoline engine, transmission and fuel tank with a lithium-ion battery system, electric motor and charging system. The left-hand drive i-MiEV concept is a step toward possible future North American production electric vehicles.
Compared to the Japanese right-hand drive version, the left-hand drive i-MiEV has been updated for greater stability and occupant safety. Mitsubishi engineers widened the front track by 3.7 inches and the rear track by 5.3 inches. Combined with a long 100.4-inch wheelbase, the new 59.8-inch overall width gives the left-hand drive i-MiEV concept greater road-holding grip and control during real-world maneuvers. Larger front and rear overhangs (+2.1 inches overall) also help boost occupant safety protection during front and rear-end collisions.
Mitsubishi Motors has been involved in electric vehicle development for more than 35 years. Concentrating mostly on motor and battery technology, Mitsubishi has developed the zero-emissions i-MiEV and is currently carrying out extensive testing on the electric minicar. The i-MiEV was named as one of the top three finalists in the World Green Car competition.
With its highly efficient electric powertrain, the i-MiEV concept is a zero on-road CO2 emissions vehicle. Even when taking into account the CO2 emissions emitted by the power plants that generate the electricity required to power the car, the i-MiEV only produces about 30% of the CO2 of a comparable 660cc gasoline minicar.
The onboard electric systems also help reduce noise pollution during day-to-day operation. Free of the vertical vibrations and exhaust noise of gasoline engines, the i-MiEV's motor helps bring about a 5dB reduction in sound when fully accelerating from 31 mph.
Supplementing the standard Drive mode in the i-MiEV concept is the Eco (Economy) and Brake driving modes. Selectable through the transmission's gearshift lever, the Eco mode limits excessive power from reaching the motor while the Brake mode uses extra regenerative braking during incline descents to further charge the onboard batteries.
Innovative Power System
Based around a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor, the i-MiEV's power system uses high-capacity lithium-ion batteries and a groundbreaking three-way battery charging system. The i-MiEV uses cutting edge high energy density lithium-ion batteries to power its motor. Each floor-mounted battery pack consists of 22 modules, which are themselves comprised of 4 battery cells. Battery modules can be installed either vertically or transversely, allowing them to fit easily in the area underneath the cabin floor, retaining cabin space and lowering the center of gravity.
The estimated target range for the i-MiEV concept is 80-100 miles. Three different types of battery charging systems are available. Using the onboard household charger, the i-MiEV can be recharged through 220V (15A) and 110V (15A) power sources. Ordinary electric outlets plugs are used and access the i-MiEV from the passenger side of the vehicle. The full charging time is approximately 7 hours for the 220V system and 14 hours for the 110V system. A quick-charger system is also available, accessible on the driver's side of the vehicle. Using a three-phase 220V power supply, the quick-charger can produce an 80% battery charge in about 30 minutes.
High Efficiency and Low Cost
The i-MiEV's small, lightweight and powerful electric motor can be assembled and installed in a smaller packaging space than a gasoline alternative. Taking advantage of the electric motor's instant torque characteristics, the i-MiEV produces 133 lb.-ft of torque from a standstill and 63 hp of power. With a top speed of 81 mph, the i-MiEV provides quieter and sportier driving with superior power output versus a comparable gasoline minicar.
The cost per kilometer to operate the i-MiEV is also 1/3 that of a comparable gasoline minicar when charged during daytime hours. If charged during off-peak or nighttime hours, the cost can drop as low as 1/9 that of a gasoline equivalent, greatly reducing operating costs.
Retaining the right-hand drive i-MiEV's mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, the left-hand drive i-MiEV concept also places the charger, inverter and electric motor system below and behind the rear passengers. This allows the high capacity lithium-ion batteries to be installed underneath the floor. Besides lowering the center of gravity of the vehicle, the battery placement also provides the i-MiEV with generous cabin space and reasonable rear luggage compartment space.
The left-hand drive i-MiEV concept goes one step further with its long 100.4-inch wheelbase and a larger (+1.7 inches versus the right-hand drive i-MiEV) 59.8-inch overall width. For greater driving stability and control, Mitsubishi engineers widened the front track by 3.7 inches and the rear track by 5.3 inches. The reshaped front and rear overhangs were also lengthened by 2.1 inches overall for increased safety and protection during front and rear-end collisions. With the wheels pushed out to the corners and the body optimized for ingress and egress, four adult-sized occupants can travel in comfort with generous legroom and ceiling clearance.
Over the past two years, testing has been carried out on the i-MiEV in Japan with seven major utility companies. Replicating that structure of partnered development and testing here in the US, units have been entered into the prototype evaluation programs of both Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Southern California Edison. By partnering with these major utilities, Mitsubishi will be able to evaluate battery and charging system performance, as well as any possible future production vehicle's ability to integrate into the US energy structure.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV concept specifications
i-MiEV concept (left-hand drive) i-MiEV (Japanese right-hand drive)
Overall length 135.8-in. 133.7-in.
Overall width 59.8-in. 58.1-in.
Overall height 63.0-in. 63.0-in.
Track: F/R 55.3 / 55.3-in. 51.6 / 50.0-in.
Wheelbase 100.4-in. 100.4-in.
Number of passengers 4 4
Vehicle weight 2381 lbs. 2381 lbs.
Motor output 63 hp 63 hp
Motor torque 133 lb.-ft 133 lb.-ft
Battery system 330V lithium-ion 330V lithium-ion
Drive mode Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
About Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., (MMNA) is responsible for all manufacturing, finance, sales, marketing, research and development operations for Mitsubishi Motors in the United States. MMNA sells coupes, convertibles, sedans, sport utility vehicles and light trucks through a network of approximately 420 dealers. For more information, contact the Mitsubishi Motors News Bureau at (888) 560-6672 or visit media.mitsubishicars.com.