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by Tim Beissmann

The Mitsubishi Minicab-MiEV could become the first zero-emission light commercial vehicle in Australia, with Mitsubishi Motors Australia confirming it is investigating the new micro van.

 

The Minicab-MiEV – which borrows its electric powertrain technology from the i-MiEV hatch – goes on sale in Japan on December 8. Priced from 2.4 million yen ($32,000) – or 1.73 million yen ($23,000) with the Japanese government’s eco-car subsidy – the Minicab-MiEV promises to be marginally cheaper than the electric hatchback.

While Mitsubishi Australia is yet to lock in the tiny enviro-hauler, it admits it is “absolutely” under consideration to join the i-MiEV in our market.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia’s Lenore Fletcher said the local arm was waiting to get the full specifications and details of the vehicle to see if it was suitable for our market. She said Mitsubishi would assess the demand for the Minicab-MiEV and investigate whether it would satisfy Australian Design Rules.

At 3395mm long, 1475mm wide and 1810mm tall (1915mm in high-roof form), the Minicab-MiEV is 760mm shorter, 180mm skinnier and about the same height as the Suzuki APV, which is one of the smallest vans in Australia.

In Japan, it will be available with two different battery capacities, one with a 100km range and another with a 150km range. The smaller lithium-ion battery takes 4.5 hours to charge fully from a standard power point and just 15 minutes to fast-charge to 80 per cent. The longer-range model takes seven hours to charge and 35 minutes to fast-charge to 80 per cent.

Fletcher believes the electric van would be a practical transport solution for city-based couriers and servicemen who drive short distances and are stopped for extended periods.

Although she declined to put a date on its potential arrival in Australia, Fletcher said markets outside Japan might not have to wait too long, with Mitsubishi now much quicker at preparing vehicles for export.

The Minicab-MiEV is one of the eight all-new pure electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles Mitsubishi plans to launch by 2015, and Mitsubishi Australia is committed to considering each one for our market. If it is approved, the Minicab-MiEV is unlikely to go on sale before 2013.

Fletcher said Mitsubishi Australia would also consider the petrol-powered version of the Minicab as part of its significant product push over the next few years.

One thing that appears off the table, however, is the 100km range version of the i-MiEV. Despite being considerably cheaper than the 155km model currently available in Australia, the brand believes the vehicle’s range would be too limited for many Australians.

Despite this, Fletcher said Mitsubishi Australia was committed to reducing the price of the i-MiEV, and said she believed the price would fall again over the next 12 months.

The price of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV has fallen from its initial launch price of $62,640 (for fleet buyers on a three-year lease) in August 2010 to $48,800 outright for all buyers, largely because of improving economies of scale.

Although the price will not fall another 23 per cent this year, Fletcher said it was Mitsubishi’s long-term goal to make EVs and plug-in hybrids part of the normal vehicle line-up and demand a premium similar to that of a diesel engine.




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