Mitsubishi is partnering with California utility companies Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison to bring the oddly named i MiEV electric vehicle to the Golden State. Here's the catch: you won't even be given the option to purchase one. The vehicle, which is based on Mitsubishi's "i" gasoline-powered mini car on sale in Japan, is being imported in limited quantities for testing purposes only and will not be available for public purchase.
A 330-volt lithium ion battery system, located under the floor deck, powers a permanent magnet electric motor. The 47-kW electric motor offers improved performance and quicker acceleration over the 64-hp gasoline version, even though the two powertrains make about the same amount of power. This is most certainly due to the electric system's lighter weight. However, with only about 100 miles per charge, the gasoline engine still offers better range and utility.
The zero-emissions vehicles will be integrated into the utility companies' fleets to gauge the viability of utilizing all-electric vehicles in its operations and further understand the impact of charging electric vehicles on the electric grid. Similar testing has taken place with seven of Japan's major utility companies, resulting in Mitsubishi's decision to sell the i MiEV to the Japanese public in 2009.
Perhaps if PG&E's and SCE's testing yields good results, we'll see the i MiEV on Mitsubishi showroom floors sooner than we think.