The all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV has been awarded a four-star safety rating by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

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The first fully electric car to be tested for the Australian market, the i-MiEV scored a total of 28.35 out of 37 points.

In the offset crash test it scored 10.95 out of 16, while in the side impact test it managed 14.4 out of 16. Protection from serious chest and leg injury was marginal for the driver in the front test, and there was a moderate risk of serious chest injury to the driver in the side test.

While a four-star rating is a solid effort, ANCAP Chair Lauchlan McIntosh said many other light cars – including variants of the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20 and Volkswagen Polo to name just a few – achieved a five-star rating while also being fuel efficient.

“ANCAP supports and welcomes the push for greener vehicles, but we stress the need to ensure safety is built in to the vehicle,” Mr McIntosh said.

He commended Mitsubishi for equipping the i-MiEV with front, side and curtain airbags and electronic stability control as standard. The front seatbelt feature pretensioners and all seats have advanced seatbelt reminders.

The crash test was conducted under ANCAP standards in Japan last month in collaboration with crash test laboratory JARI and Japan NCAP.

So far there are 110 i-MiEVs in Australia, with many of those involved in government trials across a number of states.

Under the current system, i-MiEV customers lease the vehicles at $1740 per month for three years ($62,640 total) and return the cars at the end of the contract.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia’s Lenore Fletcher said the local arm was working towards making the i-MiEV readily available to private customers by the third quarter of 2011.

Ms Fletcher said the goal was to add the i-MiEv to the normal product line-up and ultimately offer consumers the option to purchase – rather than simply lease – the vehicle.

She said Mitsubishi Motors Australia hoped to receive a consistent supply of i-MiEVs in 2011 rather than the staggered influx of the vehicle in 2010.

Much of that availability will depend on MMA’s ability to negotiate with head office in Japan to secure more vehicles. Shortages of the i-MiEV’s lithium-ion battery packs are also limiting its availability globally.