- Battery-powered, mini-sized sport coupe
- Closely related to hatchback, which goes on sale in Japan in 2009
- Sale of Mitsubishi electric vehicles (EVs) in U.S. is distinct possibility
- Could be quick-charged or charged overnight
- Tri-motor system: In-wheel electric motors up front, plus a single motor for the rear wheels
IntroductionMitsubishi doubtless surprised quite a few visitors to the New York Auto Show, in March 2008, by promoting a pair of small electric cars. Planned for sale next year in Japan, the egg-shaped 4-door i MiEV hatchback is undergoing testing by six utility companies in that country, where a public road-testing program is underway. Mitsubishi strongly hints that a battery-powered i MiEV might also be a candidate for sale in the U.S. market. Testing in America is scheduled to begin in fall of 2008.
Right next to the i MiEV hatchback stood an EV of a different stripe-though largely identical beneath the skin. Comparably minicar-sized, the i MiEV Sport Concept bears little resemblance to its hatchback cousin. The hatchback looks like it would fit right into the mini-hatchback league in Japan or Europe-but could be a harder sell in the U.S. Mitsubishi's i MiEV Sport, in contrast, takes the stubby-nose profile and transforms it into a mini-contender, with overtones of the Volkswagen New Beetle that debuted in 1998.
If fuel prices continue to skyrocket, the prospects for a commuter car that can be charged overnight at home-or quick-charged at work or in another location-might revitalize. A sporty-looking coup_ that runs on batteries might provide an extra inducement to uncertain prospects. Because it's still in concept form, however, availability of the i MiEV Sport in either Japan or the U.S. remains uncertain.
Mitsubishi isn't the only Japanese automaker to talk about mini-sized electric vehicles at the New York show. Subaru announced that a pair of them soon would undergo testing by the New York Power Authority. Nissan announced a forthcoming electric car, intended for sale in Japan by 2010 and in the U.S. about two years later.
Exterior DesignLike the i MiEV hatchback, the Sport coup_ has a rear-midship layout, with a cab-forward profile. Built on the same 100.4-inch wheelbase as the i MiEV 4-door version, the Sport coup_ is slightly longer overall: 135.5 inches. Measuring 63 inches wide, the coup_ is just 55 inches tall and aluminum wheels hold 175/45R17 tires. MacPherson struts make up the front suspension, with a DeDion axle at the rear.
As seen at the 2008 New York Auto Show, and the Tokyo show in fall of 2007, the i MiEV Sport was painted light green, said "to evoke images of nature and the environment." The pearlescent paint changes hue when viewed in direct sunlight. Triangular quarter windows and side-panel crease enhance the micro-coup_'s sporty appearance.
Interior DesignInside the cockpit of the Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Concept is a geometric design, combining metallic-finish materials with blue indirect lighting. White and dark grey interior colors blend with mesh materials and genuine leather. Instruments sit in a large cluster ahead of the driver.
HardwareBased on the same structure as the i MiEV hatchback, dubbed Mitsubishi's "environmental flagship," the i MiEV Sport uses an electric motor within each front wheel, plus a single motor for the rear wheels. That makes it a 4-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle, with Mitsubishi's S-AWC vehicle dynamics control system. S-AWC integrated the E-4WD system with E-AYC (Electric Active Yaw Control, anti-lock brakes, and Active Stability Control. Mitsubishi claims a top speed of 180 kilometers per hour (111 mph), and a range per charge of 200 kilometers (124 miles).
Lithium-ion batteries sit under the floor, while the inverter and charger go beneath the luggage compartment. That configuration helps produce a lower center of gravity and improve front/rear weight distribution, the company says. The Sport coup_ is built with an aluminum space frame structure, and the suspension uses many aluminum components.