Despite the company’s positive stance on electric cars and the philosophical and financial commitment that has come along with it, Mitsubishi’s electric dream is currently falling short of initial expectations.
The Japanese company has sold just 14 i-MiEV electric cars in Australia so far this year, five less than the same period last year. In Europe, sales have been slow and production of the i-MiEV’s better looking cousins, the Peugeot iON and Citroen C-Zeros have been put on hold since August due to poor demand (less than 2,000 sales for both cars combined across all of mainland Europe in the first half of this year).
Speaking to the media via a translator at today’s Sydney motor show, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) president, Osamu Masuko, says there are a number of factors that have slowed sales of electric cars.
“The European market, which is a big market (for electric cars), is suffering badly and the second reason is the high Japanese Yen.”
Masuki admitted that the relatively high price of electric cars has been a hindrance for the technology in gaining mass-market appeal. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is priced from $48,899 in Australia with a cruising range of around 120km.
“The customer is recognizing that the price point is important and the infrastructure and the cruising range (as well).” Masuki said.
Nonetheless, he believes Mitsubishi has already come out with the solution by creating its soon to launch PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), the first of which being the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. These combine a traditional petrol motor to act as a generator for the electric drive, thus eliminating the low cruising range and infrastructure challenges of electric cars.
“To solve this issue, our resolution was PHEVs, which accommodate the issue of cruising range, which now achieves 800km and also the infrastructure because using the petrol is actually generating the electricity, so I think we are accommodating those issues.”
Regardless of PHEVs, the company is far from giving up on pure electric cars. Mitsubishi is hard at work to increase the cruising range of its electric vehicles as well as aiding infrastructure development. It’s also set to launch more variants of the i-MiEV in the Japanese market.
“Obviously the (electric vehicle) technology is improving everyday so I think we will see this kind of innovative changes in EVs as well.”
Masuki noted that fossil fuel-powered vehicles have been on sale for over a hundred years, creating a massive market, while sales of electric vehicles have only just started.
He also noted that during last year’s catastrophic Japanese earthquake, electric cars were put to heavy use as transportation devices given electricity was made available to the regions far quicker than petrol supply could be restored. Mitsubishi went on to develop a system which now allows the car’s battery to be used to power white goods when needed.