Mitsubishi aims to launch mass-production of electric vehicles in 2009. And, in this field test, the company plans to investigate such issues as the "preferable length of time for charging from the viewpoint of users" and "compatibility with rapid rechargers under development by electric companies."
Two major improvements in the new test vehicle are the adoption of new Li-ion rechargeable battery and the cruising range extended from 130 to 160km in the 10-15 Japanese test cycle. The longer range was achieved by a more efficient redesigned motor, improved regeneration capability, lower rolling resistance tires, the control system, and reduction in the size and weight of the components in consideration of mass production.
A new Li-ion battery produced by Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture of Mitsubishi Motors, GS Yuasa Corp and Mitsubishi Corp will be used for the first time. Lithium Energy Japan plans to produce 200,000 cells (equivalent to the demand for 2,000 units of electric vehicles) in the FY2009. (2010 was forecast in earlier announcements as the expected date of production) The performance of new battery is the same as that of its predecessor, made by Litcel, but with added safety features.
The time required to recharge the battery pack is about 14 hours at AC 100V/15A, about 7 hours at AC 200V/15A and about 30 minutes by rapid charging (80% recharge).
Mitsubishi will provide a fleet of 40 cars to five electric companies for evaluation.
It seems the Mitsubishi will win the race to produce an electric vehicle by a large automotive company. Could this mean that a trend is starting that will enable mass production of electric vehicles before plug-in vehicles are ready? It would then seem that the plug-in as well as hybrid vehicle could have a shorter period of production than anticipated by many, dependent on the availability and cost of batteries, battery cost being a major factor in the range of electric vehicles. Mistubishi is controlling the battery availability by producing their own. No prices were suggested for the i-MiEV.