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November 22, 2010

The trouble with electric cars right now is that it still takes a leap of faith to buy one. But if we could get a charger from somewhere as well known and easily found as a Best Buy store,that might change perceptions considerably. This is the bright idea behind Mitsubishi’s 2012 iMiEV.

Its full name is Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle and it’s a four-passenger, five-door subcompact hatch. The iMiEV has been around since 2006 in an experimental incarnation and the actual production version, unveiled for North America at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, was released in Japan in 2009. Over 4,000 are on the road, some as taxi cabs and rental cars. Mitsubishi has data from more than 300,000 battery-powered miles, so the iMiEV is a rare thing at the moment: a mature electric car.

The car goes on sale next fall in California, Oregon, Hawaii and Washington state, at a price of around $30,000 before any federal or local tax credits are applied. Next up will come some states in the northeast, before going nationwide by the end of 2012. Mitsubishi also plans to have a plug-in hybrid model in production and for electric cars to account for 20 percent of its output in the near future.

With a range of 85 miles from its 63-horsepower electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack, Mitsubishi is keen to stress that the iMiEV is for local commutes and/or running errands. As mentioned above, consumer retail giant Best Buy can supply home chargers and perform their installation. These units take normal household supply of 110 volts and steps that up to 220, effectively halving the time to replenish an iMiEV’s battery. Mitsubishi claims a three-phase 220-volt quick charger can take a low battery up to 80 percent charged in just under half an hour.


author photoCOLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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