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.