Its tiny four-seat i-Miev electric car may have beat the Nissan LEAF to the marketplace back in 2010, but to date Japanese automaker Mitsubishi has found building plug-in hybrid cars far more lucrative than building all-electric ones, specifically plug-in hybrid SUVs.
Spurred by the success of its Outlander Plug-in Hybrid SUV — a car which combines all-electric range of around 25 miles in real-world conditions from a 16 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, go-anywhere all-wheel drive capabilities, room for five and towing capabilities — Mitsubishi has promised us a whole new range of plug-in hybrid vehicles will join the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid in the next few years, combining the practicality of an SUV with greatly improved overall fuel economy.
Doing so will allow it to cash in on the massive popularity of the crossover SUV worldwide while simultaneously dramatically reducing the carbon emissions of its fleet and giving customers what they want. Consequently, Mitsubishi has all but forgotten about its i-Miev — a car which is technically still available in some markets but which has now officially received end-of-production plans — and some i-Miev owners feel let down and unsupported.
While the i-Miev is not long for this world however, Autocar reports that Mitsubishi has now signed off on production plans for an all-electric compact SUV based on the eX concept car it showcased at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. Although its current focus is expanding its plug-in hybrid lineup, the Japanese automaker is adamant that electric cars remain an important part of the brand’s future.
The news comes courtesy of Lance Bradley, head of Mitsubishi UK, who told Autocar at last week’s Geneva Motor Show that Mitsubishi is committed to bringing a production version of the eX to market, complete with expected range of around 250 miles on the super-unrealistic Japanese JC08 test cycle (150-180 miles of real-world range, based on our own calculations).
“The commitment is to return to full EV when the infrastructure is mature,” Bradley explained. “Full electric power is very much part of Mitsubishi’s future.”
When the eX concept debuted last year in Tokyo it came with envisaged autonomous drive capabilities as well as full interconnectivity to the digital world. Like the IDS concept from rival automaker Nissan, the Mitsubishi eX concept hinted at a point in the not-too-distant future where driving becomes a optional activity rather than a required chore, with drivers handing over control of monotonous or regular driving to the car’s on-board computer. In that model, driving becomes a social or recreational activity again, rather than a necessity of modern life.
Offering all-wheel drive capabilities, the eX will likely be marketed at those who live and work in the world’s megacities during the week but seek the quiet and solace of the open road or great outdoors at the weekend.
While the Mitsubishi eX Tokyo Motor Show concept car was certainly very futuristic in its design, complete with extensive use of lightweight construction materials, minimalist interior, no B-pillars, rear coach doors and a super high-tech console, it’s highly unlikely that the car we saw in Tokyo will be the car that enters production before the end of the decade.
That said, we’re expecting all the important bits — like the all-wheel drive system, high-capacity battery and at least semi-autonomous capabilities — to make it into the production car.
As for name, price or other details? Those are still a mystery, but as always we’ll let you know when we know more.
Do you think Mitsubishi is right to focus on large SUVs rather than small city cars? And would you want to buy a 150- to 250-mile electric SUV from Mitsubishi? How much would you pay for it? And what features would you expect?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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