Australia’s first all-electric vehicle, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, is on track to go on sale to the public in the third quarter of this year.

So far the i-MiEV (which stands for ‘Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle’) has only been available to lease in Australia, but the second half of this year will bring private buyers the opportunity to purchase the compact EV outright.

The first shipment of i-MiEV models arrived in Australia in August last year, with 110 vehicles leased to government and corporate fleets.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd (MMAL) currently leases the i-MiEV for $1740 per month on a three-year term, which equates to $20,880 per year and a total price of $62,640. The vehicles will be returned to MMAL at the end of the contract.

MMAL customer and brand management vice president, Paul Unerkov, said Australia would not take delivery of any more i-MiEV models until the arrival of the for-sale vehicles in the second half of the year.

Mr Unerkov said MMAL would continue to lease the vehicles as well as sell them outright.

Mitsubishi Australia is still tight-lipped over the pricing of the i-MiEV, but prepare to be disappointed if you expect to get change from $40,000 for the compact four-seat, five-door hatch. Some have suggested the outright price could blow out beyond $50,000, although specific numbers are nothing more than speculation at this stage.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is currently on sale in about 20 different countries around the world. In the UK, pricing starts at £28,990 ($47,180), although with the £5000 ($8140) government plug-in grant the price drops to £23,990 ($39,050). Currently, there are no government incentive or rebate schemes for purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles in Australia.

The new cars coming to Australia will be similar to the European-spec 2011 model year i-MiEVs, which have a few minor exterior tweaks including a revised front bumper with fog lights, dark tinted headlights and new three-spoke alloy wheels.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is powered by a 47kW/180Nm electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack that is capable of travelling 160km. A full charge from a standard power source takes seven hours, and the i-MiEV can also be recharged to 80 percent capacity within 30 minutes when connected to a 200V fast-charge outlet.

The upgraded model was tested by Euro NCAP last month and achieved a four-star safety rating thanks to its standard fitment of front, side and curtain airbags and electronic stability control. ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) has likewise awarded all i-MiEVs built in 2011 and destined for Australia four stars.

Mr Unerkov said the number of i-MiEVs delivered in Australia this year would be determined by demand rather than supply, confirming that everyone who wanted one would be able to get one.

He admitted Mitsubishi Australia did not expect to sell “thousands” of i-MiEVs, but hoped for steady sales of what will be the only semi-affordable EV available in the country in 2011 (not counting the $206,188 Tesla Roadster).

Mr Unerkov said Mitsubishi Australia planned to apply its Diamond Advantage warranty scheme (10-year/160,000km powertrain, five-year/130,000km vehicle) to the i-MiEV and future plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles to deliver a consistent service across its new vehicle range.

The warranty is expected to better the Nissan LEAF and the Holden Volt when they arrive in 2012, with both vehicles currently sold overseas with an eight-year/160,000km battery warranty.