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Mitsubishi Firsts

By Bill Moore

Skype video conversation with Mitsubishi USA's chief engineer for regulatory compliance David Patterson on the company's electric vehicle plans and progress from the i-MiEV to the Outlander PHEV and beyond.

You might find this hard to believe, but Nissan is not the first car company to mass produce a modern electric car: and by 'mass production,' I mean tens of thousands of them.

Yes, Nissan leads the world in the total number of modern EVs on the road, well past 200,000 at this writing, but in terms of who was first, that milestone has Mitsubishi engraved on it. It began work on its electric car in 2006, debuted its pre-production prototype in 2007, which I got to drive at the Tokyo Auto Show that year, and began sales in Japan in 2009.

Since that time, the company has steadily, almost stealthily - at least compared to likes of Nissan, Tesla, and GM - put their little i-MiEV electric car into the hands of the citizens of more countries on Planet Earth than all the other EV makers combined, with total vehicle numbers now in excess of 50,000 units.

Sure, that's a quarter of Nissan's global LEAF fleet, but according to Dave Patterson, Mitsubishi's US-based chief engineer for regulatory compliance, we're not only talking about two different companies in terms of industrial cloat, but two distinctly different classes of vehicles.

Nissan's total assets as of 2014 were $122USD billion compared to Mitsubishi Motors at $15USD billion. The curb weight of the LEAF averages right around 3,300 lbs (1495 kg). The i-MiEV, based on the award winning 'i' micro car platform in Japan, is 2,579 lbs (1169 kg). The battery capacity of each is even more telling. The LEAF boasts a 24 kWh pack with an EPA range (2014 model) of 84 miles per charge. The i-MiEV is rated at 62.

Mitsubishi i-iMiEV

But here's the interesting part, as Patterson points out. Despite its shorter range, the i-MiEV is a more efficient electric car than the LEAF, getting 258Wh/mile compared to the latter's 285Wh/mi. Even though its battery is two-thirds the size of the one in the LEAF, its range is only 27% less.

While it hasn't been as successful in terms of unit sales as the LEAF, it has proven popular with those who do own them, says Patterson in this nearly 40-minute interview. He brings us up to speed on Mitsubishi's EV plans and aspirations, which are increasingly being focused on its Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology now found in the highly popular Outland PHEV sold in Europe, the ground work for which was laid by the i-MiEV program.

And speaking of the little i-MiEV, its MSRP is now the lowest for a four passenger electric car at $22,995USD. Subtract from that the $7,500 federal tax credit and $2,500 incentive for residents of California, and the price in the Golden State drops to a mere $12,995USD making it the lowest priced electric car in North America.

For buyers who aren't entirely comfortable with an all-electric car like the i-MiEV, either in terms of its size and/or range, the Outlander and succeeding models will give them the versatility of an SUV and the ability to drive electric first when they want it: its EPA estimated EV-mode range reportedly will be 25 miles. Its hybrid range is in excess of 500 miles.

From Patterson's comments near the end of segment two in the video, it's obvious that Mitsubishi has more PHEV programs in mind, the new GC-PHEV concept SUV (pictured above) that it debuted at Chicago Auto Show hints at where the company is headed into the future, including the distinct possibility of someday producing the successor to the Outlander Sport at its Normal, Illinois plant.

On a video quality note, several times early on the Skype video connection buffers, leaving gaps in the conversation. We have edited those out for the sake on continuity. Be sure to listen to both segments: there's a lot there that isn't covered in the introductory text that I think you'll find interesting.

Video Part 1

Video Part 2

Times Article Viewed: 9364
Originally published: 19 Mar 2015

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