Mitsubishi i-MiEV Wins MPG Crown

New Mitsubishi electric vehicle hits the US market this fall.

The Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt are two of the most fuel efficient vehicles for sale in the United States. By 2012, both vehicles will be surpassed by the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, an electric vehicle that went on sale in Japan in summer 2009. This model will soon be made available for sale in North America. When it hits the market, it will offer a longer range, better fuel economy and slightly lower price than the Nissan LEAF, another pure electric vehicle.

The i-MiEV beat the LEAF to the market by nearly 18 months. Mitsubishi has sold more than 14,000 units, but the LEAF is making up for lost time and has already sold 8,500 models worldwide. Nissan's French partner, Renault, is selling its version of LEAF in Europe while Peugeot is doing likewise in for Mitsubishi.

US Retail

By Fall 2011, the i-MiEV will be made available for sale in the United States, retailing for about $32,000 which is $785 less than the LEAF. This base "M" model will have a 75 mile range, but if a 110 mile range is desired, the "G" model can be had for about $47,000. Both models are eligible for the federal government's $7,500 tax credit, effectively reducing these prices to $24,500 and $39,500 respectively. In some states, such as California, a $5,000 tax rebate is available, driving down the cost for Golden State drivers to $19,500 and $34,500 respectively.

Mitsubishi has managed to lower its price as battery technology is cheaper, by 50 percent in just two years. The final price for American consumers is likely to change as the exchange rate between the American dollar and Japanese yen must be taken into consideration. Mitsubishi plans to sell 25,000 units annually beginning in 2012, with 6,000 of those models sold in Japan according to company sources.

High MPGe

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is powered by a 63 horsepower electric motor with an estimated 112 MPGe rating by the EPA. This number compares with the Nissan LEAF at 99 MPGe and 93MPGe by the Chevy Volt, the latter when it operates in electric-only mode. The Tesla Roadster, which is priced approximately three times the price of the Mitsubishi, still leads the pack, offering 119 MPGe.

Sales of all electric vehicles are growing slowly, but without government support most likely will remain quite low. The global economy remains week, gas powered models are more efficient and cheaply priced, and consumers are slow to grasp the importance of the new technology. Still, vehicle electrification has many benefits, as it helps the world depend less on oil and can contribute to cleaner air.

Matthew C. Keegan is editor and publisher of "Auto Trends Magazine." Matt is also a contributing writer for Andy's Auto Sport and affiliated websites, an aftermarket supplier of quality auto parts including Ford Taurus exhausts and fenders.

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