It's not the biggest or fastest electric vehicle on the market, but when it comes to the U.S. later this year, the Mitsubishi's i will be the cheapest.
Formerly the iMiev, the 2012 Mitsubishi i (ES trim level) will have a starting price of $20,490 after the federal tax credit of $7,500. That makes the four-seater EV almost $5k less than the $32,780 Nissan Leaf. But that lower price also means less range and fewer features.
The Mitsubishi i is estimated to have an 85-mile range and a top speed of 80 mph. The ES trim is pretty spare, but contains a few bells and whistles. With the entry level model, you get a four-seater electric car with AC, heated driver seat, remote keyless entry, remote cabin conditioning and battery charging system, speed sensitive power steering, a basic audio system, and an on-board recharging system with a 120-volt portable 8 amp charging cable.
If you want factory installed navigation, it's an expensive step up to the SE premium package. The SE premium package includes all the features of the SE trim level, such as interior, audio, and wheel upgrades, but it also adds HDD navigation with rear camera, FUSE Hands-free Link, USB port, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and DC fast charging port. However, you've just built a $32,780 car.
Navigation is a standard feature on the five-seater Nissan Leaf, and adding DC fast charging to the SL model brings the total MSRP to $34,420. It's still $1,640 more expensive than the i, but keep in mind you get a 100-mile range from the Leaf's larger 24-kWh lithium ion battery. The Mitsubishi i uses a 16-kWh lithium ion battery. On the upside, the i is rear-wheel drive, while the Leaf is front-wheel drive.
Optional navigation in an electric car is a curious pricing strategy. Manufactures seem to rely on the in-dash screen as a way to educate drivers on energy efficient EV driving, predict vehicle range, and manage battery charging. The only way this strategy makes sense is if Mitsubishi plans on releasing an app that drivers can use on their dash-mounted smartphones to get the same data.
But there are probably drivers that feel they don't need HD navigation to tell them where to go and reassure them that they have enough battery capacity to get there. The Mitsubishi i's instrument panel will still provide battery and range information, and adventurous EV fans may prefer to pocket the $5k and invest in a good Garmin device. It'll also make it an affordable EV option for corporate fleets.
Of course, at the lowest price point they won't be getting the, but that may not be that much of a trade off since there are few public fast charging stations available at the moment. An optional 240-volt is supplied by Eaton, and provides a full charge in 6 hours.
Pre-registration for the 2012 Mitubishi i begins today, and requires a $299 refundable deposit that will be applied to the final sale price. The first 2,000 customers to preregister will have the $99 home electrical inspection fee waived. The inspection will ensure the home can efficiently charge an EV.