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i-MiEV price tops $55K

Mitsubishi launches long-awaited electric i-car in Japan, but it’s not cheap

8 Jun 2009

THE widely anticipated all-electric version of Mitsubishi’s i-car has been launched in Japan, priced from ¥4.38 million – which at current exchange rates equates to $A55,668.

The i-MiEV is the first electric vehicle (EV) to receive official federal Australian Design Rule (ADR) certification and continues to be the subject of on-road field testing here and in New Zealand, but is yet to be confirmed for sale here due to limited initial supply.

Nissan has committed to releasing its first EV in Australia in 2012 and, as we reported last week, says it will make the vehicle available for lease to the public here in 2010 via Europcar, with which it has signed a global rental fleet deal.

Nissan Australia has said it hopes to price its yet-to-be-revealed small five-seater, five-door hatchback from below $30,000, making the four-seater i-MiEV city-car’s potential $50,000-plus pricetag here appear somewhat expensive.

Mitsubishi unveiled the production i-MiEV in Japan on Friday (June 5). It said it hoped to attract 1400 lease sales to corporate customers and local governments between late July and the end of March 2010.

Deliveries to private individuals won’t begin until April 2010 in Japan, while the lithium ion battery-powered i-MiEV, which has a range of 160km, will also go on sale in Europe next year, ahead of US sales.

As part of the environmental roadmap dubbed ‘Mitsubishi Motors Group Environmental Vision 2020’ also released on Friday, Mitsubishi says it wants EVs to account for 20 per cent of its global production by 2020, its 50th anniversary year.

21 center imageFrom top: Subaru Stella, Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.

To achieve this, Mitsubishi says it will employ a three-pronged approach focussing on “product and technology, corporate activities and co-operation with society”. The 2020 plan also aims to reduce per-vehicle CO2 emissions during production by 20 per cent over 2005 levels.

Apart from pursuing the development of EV technology, Mitsubishi said it would “reduce environmental loads throughout the full lifecycle of its products in many ways, including the improvement of fuel economy in internal combustion engine-powered vehicles and vehicle size and weight reduction”.

Another company that will skip petrol-electric hybrid technology by progressing directly to EV technology is Subaru, which also unveiled an electric plug-in version of its Stella small-car in Japan last week.

Both the i-MiEV and Stella EVs appeared at this year’s Melbourne motor show, but at this stage Subaru says it has no plans to sell its EV outside Japan.

First deliveries of the Stella begin late next month, but Subaru’s domestic sales targets are also more modest than Mitsubishi’s, with just 170 lease sales forecast by April 2010.

The four-door lithium ion-powered Stella has a range of 90km and will be priced from around $A61,760 in Japan.

Three significant new – and significantly less expensive – hybrid models will also be rolled out soon, led by the Toyota’s third-generation Prius hatch (July), Honda’s second-generation Insight hatch (in the second half of 2010) and General Motors’ Volt hatch, which Holden has pledged to sell here in 2012.

GM describes its Volt as an extended-range EV because its internal combustion engine (which technically classifies it as a hybrid) acts only as a generator to power a Li-Ion battery that drives its wheels, and because it has a longer (65km) electric running range than its chief hybrid rivals.

On sale in the US from late 2010 ahead of volume production in 2011, the Volt will cost about $US40,000 ($A50,100) in the US. After subsidies, GM estimates the Volt will be priced at around $US32,500 ($A40,706) for US individuals.

It is not yet clear what prices or specifications Toyota's newest hybrid icon will come with here, but despite its larger 1.8-litre engine and increased standard equipment list, next month’s all-new Prius went on sale in Japan last month at an even lower price than its MkII predecessor.

The current Prius is officially priced from $37,400 in Australia, but the car that replaces it is priced between ¥2.05 million ($A26,036) and ¥3.27m ($A41,530) in Japan. That's slightly less than the current model, which was priced between ¥2.33m ($A29,592) and ¥3.35m ($A42,546) in Japan, where it continues on sale.

Prices for the new Prius were also revealed in the UK last week, ranging between the same £18,370 ($A36,708) and £21,210 ($A42,383) sticker prices as before.

Honda Australia has said that, depending on exchange rates, it hopes to price its all-new Insight hybrid from below $30,000 (less than the $35,990 Civic Hybrid) when it arrives here later than expected in the second half of 2010.

Driven by subsidies for hybrid car buyers in Japan, Honda’s MkII Insight was the nations's best-selling vehicle with 10,481 sales in April, when it became the first hybrid vehicle to top the nation’s monthly sales chart.

In its first month on sale in May, however, the Prius toppled the Insight, which was also outsold by Honda's own Jazz, with 10,915 sales.

Toyota says it is already considering steps to increase production of the new Prius to meet demand after attracting some 80,000 advance orders. Reports suggest Toyota will easily outstrip its annual global Prius sales target of 400,000 vehicles, which has since been adjusted upwards to about 600,000.

Meantime, business analyst JP Morgan last month forecast that hybrid sales in the US will increase from less than one per cent today to 19.4 per cent by 2020.

It says demand will be driven by increased fuel prices and a reduction in the price deficit between hybrid cars and their equivalent petrol models, which it expects to reduce by about two-thirds in little more than a decade.

Last year about 480,000 hybrids were sold globally, with most sales going to the US. Toyota’s Prius remains the world’s top-selling petrol-electric hybrid with more than 1.25 million global sales since 1997.

Read more:

Nissan EV for rent in 2010

Nissan locks in EV

ADR approval for i-car

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