Earlier this year Mitsubishi took the bold step of announcing a future business strategy centered on developing electric vehicles. The announcement was accompanied by plans for eight new electrified Mitsubishis by 2015 and a 30% increase in the company's research and development budget to accomplish that goal.
While the plan certainly grabbed headlines, details have been rather sparse to this point - with only one electric vehicle so far confirmed for the North American market: the "i powered by MiEV" (known elsewhere simply as the i-MiEV). The i will go on sale in select West Coast markets starting in January of 2012, expanding nationwide over the course of the year.
During the launch of the North American i in Japan last week, Yoshikazu Nakamura, Mitsubishi's Global EV Strategy Manager, shed some additional light on the company's plans.
"I can say for sure that there is one of the eight that will not be for the US market - the Minicab MiEV commercial small van. That is only for the Japanese market," said Nakamura in an interview with AutoTrader. "But I can say that more than half will come to the United States because we think there is a large potential for electric vehicle sales there."
Nakamura also specified that the US will get at least two pure electric Mitsubishis, of which the i is one, and two plug-in hybrids, of which a plug-in hybrid Outlander is "almost guaranteed." Plug-in hybrids can drive for a moderate distance (15-30 miles, depending on the vehicle) on electricity stored in a battery charged from a household outlet before switching to hybrid mode and using fuel to go further.
"Beyond the i, every electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle we introduce will be tied into existing North American Mitsubishi offerings such as the Outlander Sport, the Galant and the Lancer," said Nakamura. "The rollout of electric vehicles to the United States will be tied into introducing updated models."
The electric drivetrain vehicles will be built on the same lines as the conventional vehicles, said Nakamura, meaning that Mitsubishi's Normal, Illinois, factory - which has been largely idled during the economic downturn - will likely take up production not only of the conventional Outlander Sport, but also a plug-in hybrid version within the next few years.