Mitsubishi has previously shown Japanese market versions of its i-Miev electric car, but the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show is the venue for the U.S. version of the car. The steering wheel has moved from right to left, the car has gotten wider, and the interior has seen an improvement.
Mitsubishi's i car, designed to Japanese Kei car specifications, is an unlikely entrant for an American market that favors large sedans and SUVs. But its light weight and compact dimensions make it a good candidate for an electric urban car. The company got a jump on electric car development by putting the i-Miev on sale in Japan. The U.S. version of this electric car will simply be called the i.
For the U.S. market, the i-Miev becomes the i, and sees its steering wheel move from the right side to the left. The body gains width, making for a roomier cabin and allowing for U.S.-grade safety equipment. It also gets bumpers front and rear that comply with U.S. safety regulations.
Similar to the gasoline version, the i is rear-wheel-drive, with motor, batteries, and power control components under the rear seat, in front of the rear axle. The motor produces 63 horsepower and 133 pound-feet of torque. The car itself weighs only 2,584 pounds.
Mitsubishi has not released the range for the U.S.-specification i, but we would expect it to be about 100 miles. It has two charging ports, one for standard 110 or 220 volt, and a three-phase 220-volt quick-charge port, which can bring the battery pack up to 80 percent in under 30 minutes.
The interior space of the i is surprisingly versatile. Rear cargo space is still present even when the rear seats are in use. The large doors allow easy access to the front seats, although the rear seat is tight.
This radio treatment is nicer and more stylized than we've seen in Japanese market vehicles. Mitsubishi also says a navigation system will be available for the i. We would expect it to have screens specific to the electric drive train, showing energy usage and charge levels.
The shifter is similar to those in standard automatic cars, even though it controls an entirely electrical system. The Eco drive mode limits the amount of electricity used, while the Braking mode increases regeneration.