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2009 Geneva International Motor Show
Electric i MiEV to boost Mitsubishi's urban plans

i MiEV SPORT AIR concept: detachable roof panel, view from top.

i MiEV SPORT AIR concept: detachable roof panel.


12 March 2009.

Like other auto brands and groups, Mitsubishi Motors came to the 79th Geneva International Motor Show (public days from March 5 through March 15) with the eyes of a carmaker who is not only reading the current changes in the world very carefully, but also adjusting its plans accordingly.

This may explain the sharp focus of the three-diamond brand on the global debut of its two concepts: the electric i MiEV prototype and i MiEV SPORT AIR.

For a company which has gone through rough times in recent years (*), the margin for error is rather limited.

Yet, the potential can be very promising, especially with the recent widening of the cooperation between Mitsubishi Motors Corporation and PSA Peugeot CitroŽn on electric vehicles (see below), besides the adoption of the Mitsubishi Outlander crossover platform for the Peugeot 4007 and CitroŽn C-Crosser.

i MiEV prototype: front view.

i MiEV prototype: side view.

i MiEV prototype: rear view.

i MiEV concept: wider for European environment.

That's where the priorities of the famous Pajero SUV maker are heading now, to expand its offers in small cars segments, particularly those electric ones, such as the i MiEV which will start rolling first in Japan this summer, before reaching other shores later, including Europe in 2010.

Obviously, larger vehicles will not vanish. Mitsubishi Motors has lots of cards to keep playing, from the Pajero SUV (Shogun in the UK and Montero in Spain) to the i Miev, with models ranging from the tiny i model, the small Colt (B segment, subcompact), the compact Lancer (C segment, lower medium) and its crossover brother, the Outlander, the larger Grandis minivan, in addition to other models such as the midsize Galant, the Endeavour crossover (bigger than the Outlander) and the sporty Eclipse (North America), besides other small cars or pickups it sells in specific markets.

What about the i MiEV and i MiEV SPORT AIR concepts today?

i MiEV prototype - Based on the Mitsubishi "i" minicar, the prototype i MiEV concept is a precursor to the electric vehicle the company will introduce on the European market in 2010. The prototype features several changes compared to the i MiEV due to be introduced on the Japanese market in summer 2009.

i MiEV prototype: steering wheel and instruments view.

i MiEV concept: dial-type shifter and wide use of circular shapes.

To adapt it to the more open European suburban environments, Mitsubishi widened front and rear tracks (front: + 95 mm / rear: + 135 mm) with an overall width of now 1,520 mm, vs. 1,475 mm for the original i MiEV.

With its relatively long wheelbase (2,550 mm) and lower centre of gravity brought by the centrally located under-floor battery pack, the i MiEV prototype is more fit for European driving conditions. The front and rear ends were re-styled to house the wider tracks and comply with European legal requirements.

i MiEV prototype
Overall length 3450 mm
Overall width 1520 mm
Overall height 1600 mm
Wheelbase 2550 mm
Track(F/R) 1325 / 1325 mm
Occupants 4
Vehicle weight 1080 kg
Motor output 47kW
Motor torque 180 N-m
Battery system 330V lithium-ion
Drive mode Rear wheel drive
Tires 175/45R17

Source: Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

Along those lines, the front and rear ends also accommodate longer front and rear overhangs (+ 55 mm overall), meant to comply with the pedestrian protection requirements in Europe as well as better occupant protection in the event of a rear-end shunt, leading to an overall length of 3,450 mm vs. 3,395 mm for the Japanese market i MiEV.

Like the 4-door / 4-passenger i MiEV, the prototype i MiEV uses a rear-midship layout which in a gasoline-fuelled car places the engine just in front of the rear wheels. In the prototype i MiEV the engine and fuel tank found in an engine-driven vehicle are replaced by the electric motor, inverter, lithium-ion battery module and other EV system components.

Mitsubishi explains that the rear-midship layout offers additional space for the wheelbase, providing more interior space, while locating the heavier EV system components under the floor deck lowers the centre of gravity and achieves better stability at higher speeds.

Overall length 3650 mm
Overall width 1600 mm
Overall height 1520 mm
Wheelbase 2550 mm
Track(F/R) 1405 / 1405 mm
Occupants 4
Vehicle weight 980 kg
Motor output 60 kW
Motor torque 230 N-m
Battery system 330V lithium-ion
Drive mode Rear wheel drive
Tires 175/50R17

Source: Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

The interior design features simple styling with a dial-type shifter and wide use of circular shapes for the air vents and other elements. The snow-white body and ice-blue interior colours are meant to inspire an ecological image, while the printed circuit board pattern used in the surfaces and motifs adds a high-tech look.

i MiEV SPORT AIR concept - A derivative of the 2007 i MiEV Sport show car, the longer (+ 20 cm) and taller (+ 12 cm) i MiEV SPORT AIR electric concept hints to the direction EVs may take in the future.

The "AIR" part of the name comes from the detachable roof panel which brings a wide open feel to the interior.

The body uses a number of new weight- reducing technologies. It takes the same rear-midship layout as i MiEV but with a more powerful version of the permanent magnet synchronous electric motor that powers the base model, generating 60 kW of power (compared to i MiEV's 47 kW) and 230 Nm of torque (180 Nm.) The car also exploits its long wheelbase to locate the second-generation, large-capacity lithium-ion battery system (with improved electrodes) under the floor deck.

i MiEV SPORT AIR concept: front view.

i MiEV SPORT AIR concept: front side view.

i MiEV SPORT AIR concept: rear view.

i MiEV SPORT AIR concept hints to EVs future possibilities.

Mounted on the i MiEV's rear-midship platform, the teardrop-shaped body that tapers towards the rear in an aerodynamic design puts an extensive glazed area right above front and rear lamp units, cleanly styled to produce a three-dimensional look. The roof panel incorporates a solar inlay that uses printed circuit board graphics in its design.

Inside, i MiEV SPORT AIR uses organic shapes and lighting to provide a comfortable space. The wrap-around cockpit expresses the high performance potential of the car. The main controls and switches are grouped around the dial-type shifter.

The interior uses a high-contrast colour scheme of greyish blue and an intermediate colour between grey and beige (dubbed "greige"), with a blue illumination for the instruments and interior lighting.

To lower the centre of gravity and increase driving stability, the main EV system components (battery module, inverter, battery charger) are located as low as possible, with the roof panel made of lightweight plastic to facilitate fitting and removal as well as to further lower the car's centre of gravity.

The modular body structure uses tailgate panels and plastic body to reduce weight around the rear axle where the powertrain and EV system components are installed and achieve a 50:50 front/rear weight distribution. Of hybrid design, the body uses aluminium for the rear suspension and rear body.

i MiEV SPORT AIR concept: steering wheel, instruments and console view.

i MiEV SPORT AIR concept: front seats and blue lighting view.

i MiEV SPORT AIR concept: blue interior lighting.

Mitsubishi Motors and PSA Peugeot CitroŽn - On a converging track, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) and PSA Peugeot CitroŽn signed earlier this month a Memorandum of Understanding for a collaboration on electric vehicles.

Both companies started last June a feasibility study of the development, manufacture and use of an electric powertrain for small urban vehicles.

The new MOU will allow PSA to partner with MMC for the development of an electric vehicle for Europe based on the i MiEV, to be manufactured by MMC and sold under the Peugeot brand, in parallel to Mitsubishi's own European i MiEV.

The two companies are now in negotiations on a cooperative agreement, targeting market launch at the end of 2010 or the very beginning of 2011.

The agreement will enable PSA Peugeot CitroŽn, the largest global manufacturer of electric vehicles to date (more than 10,000 units sold), to maintain its leadership in environmentally friendly cars, bringing to this project its expertise in the field of electric powertrains.

On the other hand, Mitsubishi's i MiEV is currently involved in testing and promotional activities in Japan, New Zealand, the United States and across Europe, before its commercial launch in Japan this summer, then in Europe next year, with other markets being examined, including the United States.

* Mitsubishi Motors suffered from several problems over the last ten years. They started with the Asian financial crisis in 1997 (Mitsubishi's strong presence there meant harder repercussions with the crisis), followed by the failure of its integration with the now "defunct" DaimlerChrysler entity (DaimlerChrysler had a controlling stake in Mitsubishi), between 2000 and 2005, in conjunction with the painful consequences of the public disclosure (2000 and 2004) of Mitsubishi's vehicle defect cover-up. The defects were not a Mitsubishi "exclusivity" as such, as any carmaker can and does make recalls from time to time. The management decision to cover these defects was the real problem at that time, and it proved far dearer than recalls.

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