Mitsubishi aims to be electric vehicle price leader

Mitsubishi says it is well-placed to offer electric vehicles at an affordable price, as it readies future products without internal combustion power.

Mitsubishi concept electric

Outlander project development manager Mitsuyoshi Hattari claimed that the company has worked to future-proof its electric vehicle technologies and keep ahead of rival manufacturers.

“We are one of the manufacturers who can produce the electric vehicle at minimum costs,” said Hattari-san, hinting at the development of next-generation EVs beyond the current micro-hatch i-MiEV.

Asked whether Hattari-san would like to see electric power offered in some form across all Mitsubishi models, he simply replied “yes, I think so.” The development chief confirmed a form of next-generation Lancer EV, while there are strong rumours the Lancer Evolution could replace its turbocharger with an electric motor(s) to boost its performance.

Hattari-san argues that a business case for pure electric vehicles in the light and small car classes is weak, despite the company currently selling the i-MiEV. He believes models such as the Mirage light car and Lancer small car would better work as series hybrid, plug-in electric vehicles, similar in style to the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV to be launched next year.

Having a vehicle with an internal combustion engine powering the batteries that run the electric motor means that a smaller number of lithium-ion cells – the current charging benchmark – are required.

Batteries are currently the single biggest additional cost for an electric vehicle compared with a similarly sized petrol or diesel offering. The costs are so high they make selling pure-electric vehicles prohibitively expensive overall – that’s why the i-MiEV will cost around the same money as the much larger Outlander PHEV that supports its two electric motors with an internal combusion engine.

However Hattari-san argues that the price of battery technology will eventually fall, likening the current pricing to that of LCD televisions – when they first came out, a large LCD could cost up to $20,000, where nowadays the units are available for a fraction of that cost.

As the price of battery technology, and by extension electric vehicles, drops significantly, Hattari-san expects increased volumes to boost the economies of scale, breaking down the pricing ‘wall’ further.

“How long we need to wait to see which level of price [batteries] will be – not only Mitsubishi but all industry – is one of the key factors to be one of the solutions.

“In terms of the LCD [television], it started really high cost, but once it really breaks the market, the wall will collapse. Customer demand and all the manufacturers need to push. [We] want to break down the wall.”

The question now is how long until volume is on the side of the electric vehicle to help really drive down the price.