The Mitsubishi i-MiEV will soon take the honour of being the very first electric car on sale in Australia with vehicles arriving in dealerships in August.
Although the i-MiEV has been a vehicle that we've all seen and heard about over the last two years, the 2012 models has been moderately revised with better safety and additional features.
Mitsubishi Australia couldn't officially confirm a price as negotiations are still taking place (we expect an exact price shortly). Nonetheless, officials indicated it would likely be around the $50,000 mark, which is a significant reduction from the previously estimated $65-70,000 figure.
For the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV the Japanese company has added side and curtain airbags, now equipping the vehicle with six in total. There is also electronic stability control (ESC) on top of the already existing stability and traction control. The onboard computer's operating system has been upgraded to instantly shutdown all electrical systems in the event of an accident whilst an in-cable charging circuit interrupt device adds even more safety measures. The drive modes have been altered to better suit driving conditions as well.
Although still very much an i-MiEV from the outside, the changes include an uprated rear bumper as well as privacy glass for the side and rear windows. Auto headlights and multimode keyless entry have both been added as well. Last but not least, if the electrical and environmentally friendly features of the i-MiEV can't keep you warm, the newly added heated driver's seat certainly will.
Mitsubishi expects to sell about five i-MiEVs to the public per month. The company stresses that its i-MiEV is not about volume but about getting the ball rolling in the world of electric vehicles. The delicate and time consuming production of lithium-ion batteries and strong demand from European nations may put stress on the number of vehicles destined for Australian showrooms if interest in the car rises past expectations.
With a maximum speed of about 130km/h, the i-MiEV has an official Australian design rules approved range of 155km. Which, if research is anything to go buy, is more than what 90 percent of Australians will need in a day.
Mitsubishi Motors Australia Vice President of Corporate Strategy, Paul Stevenson, told the automotive media that the i-MiEV is about changing perceptions. Noting that the i-MiEV is just like a smartphone that can easily last one day for most users but needs a recharge when you get home.
The $50,000 price tag isn't exactly cheap, given the size of the vehicle. With most of the cost absorbed by high cost of first-generation technology. According to a study by the U.S. department of energy, it currently costs $33,333 for a electric vehicle battery that manages a 160km range, that price is expected to go down to $10,000 in 2015 and to just $3,333 by 2030.
The other reason the i-MiEV is expected to attract a relatively high price in Australia is due to the complete lack of support for electric vehicles by the federal government. As it stands today, many nations in the European Union offer a $7,042 incentive to encourage electric vehicle uptake, in the U.S. that figure can be as high as $10,000. In Australia, we get nothing.
In fact, not only do we get no government incentives in cash form, there are also no government regulations to encourage recharge stations for new building developments or favourable parking laws to encourage EV uptake. Australia is the only country in the world where the i-MiEV is going on sale without any support from the federal government.
The U.S. has set a goal to have 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, Canada is more conservative at 500,000 by 2018 whilst Japan is expecting at least 5 million by 2020. Even China has set an aggressive target but Australia? Not even on the radar.
It's an unfortunate state of affairs given the Gillard government's consistent public campaign about its environmental-protection credentials.
Despite the limited support from the government, Mitsubishi believes launching the i-MiEV is the beginning of the future of mobility, and it's hard to argue with that logic.
European nations that can produce a great deal of their power from renewable resources can legitimately claim to have zero emission motoring with electric cars, nonetheless, even our coal powered nation can still benefit from cars such as the i-MiEV by charging when the grid is mostly unused (e.g. at night) or paying a little bit extra for green energy to offset CO2 emissions.
Mitsubishi will equip one dealer in each capital city (two in Sydney) to handle i-MiEV sales. The i-MiEVs components are covered by a 10 year warranty, except for the 200kg battery which is covered by a 5 year warranty. The battery pack is expected to maintain at least 80% of its original capacity after 150,000km. That means it will still hold enough charge for a 125 km journey.
As part of the Japanese company's strategy in moving forward, it will also offer begin to offer both plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles in its entire range. By 2015 buyers will be able to walk into a Mitsubishi Australia dealership, pick any model in the company's lineup (everything from Colt size to Pajero) and have the choice of either petrol, diesel, electric or plug-in hybrid engines.
The company plans to reduce its emissions across its model range by 50% come 2020 and have at least 20 percent of its sales consisting of electric vehicles.
The 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV will be available in six colours; White, Black, Cool Silver, Ocean Blue, Raspberry Red and Titanium Grey.
CarAdvice has previously driven the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, read the reviews below.