This fall, Mitsubishi Motors will bring a fleet of its i MiEV plug-in electric vehicles to America as part of an extensive joint research program with Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric, two of the state's largest utility companies. The primary focus of the SCE evaluation will be to learn how electric vehicles (EVs) can most effectively connect to the smart grid of the future and specifically, to the next generation of SCE's SmartConnect meters. The PG&E program is meant to assess the long-term feasibility of using all-electric vehicles in a commercial application, as well as to generate real-world data on the impact of charging EV's on the current and future grid systems.
For its part, Mitsubishi plans to use these programs to broaden its own electric vehicle knowledge base and to showcase the i MiEV's potential to the average U.S. consumer. During the past two years, the i MiEV has successfully undergone similar kinds of restricted testing by various utility companies in Japan. Production versions of the car -- which was on display at the 2008 New York Auto Show in March -- are slated to roll into Mitsubishi dealers in the home market starting next summer. Based on the firm's gasoline-engine "i" mini car, the zero-emissions i MiEV variant is fitted with a high-torque 47kW (63-hp) electric motor and a 330-volt advanced Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery that lets it cruise up to 100 miles on a single charge. The i MiEV also delivers superior acceleration compared to its conventional counterpart that uses a more powerful 64-horsepower engine. While Mitsubishi states there are no plans to bring this vehicle to the U.S. in any form, its drivetrain elements or their derivatives are likely to be part of whatever EV package the firm ultimately does introduce here.