Posts Tagged ‘i-MiEV’

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Going Extinct After 2014

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Let’s start this article with the one thing that’s on everybody’s mind – this is NOT an April Fool’s Day joke. As of this week, Mitsubishi has announced that their Lancer Evolution performance sedan will cease production after this year. This means that in 2015 and beyond, Mitsubishi will no longer offer any sporty vehicles; the Lancer Evo was the last one.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X

Some critics have already made the bold claim that this will be the end of Mitsubishi as we know it. From their perspective, the Lancer Evo was the only remaining Mitsubishi that had anything at all over the competition. They point out that it is/was the last desirable car in their lineup. Whether the future of the small Japanese brand is as dire as that remains to be seen. And, to be fair, it’s not clear whether or not the Lancer will become completely extinct. The platform may get some use in other models, although it seems unlikely.

Here’s what Mitsubishi’s Namie Koketsu had to say about the Lancer’s demise:

“Mitsubishi Motors does not have any plans to design a successor with the current concept, as a high-performance four-wheel drive gasoline-powered sedan, [instead] Mitsubishi Motors will explore the possibilities of high-performance models that incorporate electric vehicle technology.”

Of course, this all fits with Mitsubishi’s long-term plan as they described it near the end of 2013. At that time, they were just finishing up a highly profitable year. From their perspective, there was a time and place when motorsport performance had a heavy correlation with units sold… It started from 1996 to 1999, when the Lancer Evo took down four back-to-back WRC titles. Those stats led to a successful US debut in 2003, and contributed to near 250,000 global sales in the Evo’s long and storied life.

However, despite what Nissan might say, Mitsubishi believes that those days have passed. The majority of today’s drivers couldn’t care less about motorsports performance, so Mitsubishi is shifting their brand-wide focus to affordable green vehicles. They want to build out their portfolio of electric and hybrid vehicles to the point where 20% of their lineup will be electrified by 2020. As for their non-electric vehicles, they’ll put a heavy focus on globally applicable crossovers and SUVs – cars that are always popular.

In short, Mitsubishi has finally recognized that a smaller automaker can’t do the same things that a larger one can, at least not in this automotive market climate. So, they’re trimming their lineup; AutoNews reports that they intend to drop down to 13 models from the 18 models they offer now. It sounds eerily reminiscent of Mazda’s business plan, which can be best described as doing a few things really well instead of trying to do everything mediocrely.

In the end, the decision to cease production of the Lancer Evolution seems like a smart one. If they don’t have the manpower to continue keeping their performance sedan up to snuff, then they might as well axe it entirely. And with cutting edge products like the electric i-MiEV and the innovative PHEV SUV hybrid Outlander, it’s not as if Mitsubishi is giving up, just making the deft change of direction the Evo was so rightly famous for.

Honda Fit EV To Use Toshiba SCiB Batteries

Posted by Stephen On Friday, November 18th, 2011

Honda will become the second company after Mitsubishi to use Toshiba’s Lithium Ion SCiB batteries when it launches its electric vehicle (EV) Fit in the US and Japanese markets in 2012.

The SCiB battery pack can charge to 80% capacity in 15 minutes and can be recharged up to 4,000 times. It is also able to withstand temperatures of up to minus 30 degrees Celcius.

Honda is planning to offer the Fit EV under a lease program in the US from summer 2012 with a target of 1,100 vehicles sold over a three-year period. It will also start sales of the same vehicle in Japan during 2012, although it has not yet been decided whether these will be direct to consumer or lease sales.

Honda Fit EV using Toshiba SCiB batteries

The same SCiB batteries are used in the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, whereas the Fit EV’s main rival – the Nissan Leaf – uses NEC battery technology.

As Tog Gear demonstrated in such an exaggerated manner in its latest season of shows, one of the main disadvantages of the current crop of EVs is that the recharging time is relatively long. The more widespread uptake of quicker-charging battery packs like Toshiba’s SCiB undoubtedly goes some way towards answering those criticisms.

Source: Nikkei (Japanese)

i-MiEV Batteries Get Second Life Powering Mitsubishi Plant from 2012

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Having launched their bubble-on-wheels i-MiEV electric car back in July 2009 in Japan, Mitsubishi are now starting to think about what to do with the batteries when these vehicles reach the end of their life cycle.

After all, cars in Japan tend to get replaced earlier and at lower mileages than those overseas. So, despite Mitsubishi’s claims that the i-MiEV battery pack will still have 80% of its capacity when new when it reaches 5 years of age, and 70% at 10 years (which seems eminently reasonable in light of how battery packs from the original Prius are holding up better than was originally forecast) it is inevitable that accidents and consumer demand for newer vehicles will see more and more i-MiEVs being taken off the road in the years to come.

Now, the i-MiEV’s battery stores a significant amount of power: The more powerful 16 KW/H pack can keep a typical 4-person Japanese home supplied with 1.5 day’s worth of electricity. So, old battery packs could be used to store power for homes. That is certainly one avenue that manufacturers like Nissan are pursuing.

But Mitsubishi is thinking bigger: What about getting a whole stack of these and wiring them into the power supply for a factory. And then, what about throwing solar panels into the mix, as well as those batteries that are still mounted in cars – the vehicles that some employees are using for commuting?

This is the Mitsubishi vision for its Nagoya plant in Okazaki (which also happens to be a city I lived in for 2 years):

Mitsubishi Motor Corporation (MMC) Nagoya (Okazaki) "hybrid" factory experiment using solar power and old i-MiEV batteries

The premise is simple: Use old battery packs from i-MiEVs (and, I would suppose Minicab-MiEVs as well, in time) to store electricity at “off-peak” times, such as during the night when power demands are lower, and then use that power during the day in conjunction with power stored in i-MiEV commuter cars as well as power produced by solar panels to balance demand during the day.

Of course, the irony of this “hybrid” factory arrangement currently is that there is little price incentive to do this. While MMC can be seen as doing its part for the country in the wake of the power shortages that followed March’s nuclear accident, as well as protecting itself from future short-term power outages, the fact that off-peak electricity is rarely priced lower than during peak daytime hours means there is little economic incentive for doing so.

Perhaps Mitsubishi is sensing a change in the air? In any case, this kind of experiment that it will start in 2012 will mean it will be ahead of the game if Japan’s electricity-generating dinosaurs ever do get pushed into making that change in their pricing structures.

Source: Chunichi Shinbun (Japanese)

Mitsubishi Chooses Super-Efficient Toshiba SCiB Battery For EVs

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Mitsubishi Motor Corporation (MMC) have selected Toshiba’s SCiB battery for its i-MiEV and Minicab-MiEV models. The battery uses Toshiba’s proprietary lithium titanate oxide to make a long-life cell that can go through 6000 charging cycles – about 2.5 times more than regular lithium ion batteries. The battery pack can do a rapid 80% recharge in just 15 minutes, and is capable of operating in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celcius.

The SCiB battery pack is also being used by Honda in its EV-neo scooter that it is positioning for corporate use in Japan, as well as an electric bus project by Keio University, an electrical grid power storage system in the southern islands of Okinawa as well as  a number of other projects. The main advantage of the SCiB battery for EVs is that it gets about 1.7 times more range than the equivalent lithium ion battery, which therefore means that car makers can either reduce the size and weight of the battery pack (thus also reducing cost and improving efficiency) or, presumably, keep the dimensions the same and offer and extended range.

Toshiba SCiB lithium titanate oxide rechargeable EV battery

The ability to recharge quickly is also an important selling point for potential EV customers. A quick charge with a dedicated recharging unit will restore a quarter of the battery capacity in 5 minutes. 10 minutes brings it up to 50% charge, and 80% is reached in just 15 minutes. Not quite as quick as refilling your tank, but then again with the abundance of electrical outlets and the future provision of charging points in parking lots, the idea of actually having to go to a particular place simply to get more energy for your car will seem rather quaint 10 years from now. The battery also emits much lower levels of heat when recharging and also requires less energy for cooling when in use.

The SCiB battery is being manufactured in Toshiba’s Kashiwazaki facilities in Niigata Prefecture on the Japan Sea coast of north east Japan. A new factory dedicated to SCiB production has been built there and started operations in February this year.

Just as in the cell phone market, consumer demand for EVs and hybrids is driving innovation particularly aimed at improving energy density, recharge time and safety. The SCiB battery is a clear example of this and provides a good indication that the EVs of tomorrow are going to be significantly more competitive with regular ICE cars than they are today.

Sources: Kankyo Business (Japanese-language), Automotive Business Review

Yamato Takyubin Delivery Co. Orders 100 Minicab i-MiEV Vans

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, May 26th, 2011

The Yamato delivery company (colloquially referred to as kuro neko – black cat) is the most prominent of Japan’s home delivery companies that provide convenient and cheap to-door parcel services throughout Japan. They even have a ku-ru bin (refrigerated delivery service), by which grandparents living back in the countryside can send care packages of home-grown fruit and veg to their city-dwelling offspring.

Yamato run literally thousands of vehicles, many of which are the small trucks that spend the day puttering around narrow neighborhood streets to stop and drop off parcels at every other house. With most of these minitrucks doing mileage in the 30 kilometer range every day, they are the perfect candidates for electrification.

Since the MINICAB-MiEV can get 100 kilometers of range out of a single charge, Yamato employees will only need to charge their vehicles every other day, and they will also be able to use cheaper of-peak electricity by charging at night, which will also help reduce the strain on the local power companies. Presumably, it would not be too much of a stretch for the local parcel depots to be fitted with solar panels to make these deliver trucks even more green.

Yamato (Kuro Neko) Minicab i-MiEV electric EV delivery truck

And this is exactly what Yamato is doing with its order for 100 MINICAB‐MiEV electric vehicles from Mitsubishi. This electric model has been on the market since April 1st this year, and deliveries are going to start at the end of the year with 30 coming into use in 2011, and the remainder in 2012. They will mainly be used in the Tokyo, Haneda and Kyoto areas – urban environments ideally suited to this kind of vehicle. The decision to move ahead with this order was as a result of a joint trial with Mitsubishi that started last year.

When a big player like Yamato makes a move like this, you can be sure that other companies with similar needs will be watching closely and getting ready to make their moves also.

Perhaps in the future it won’t be “kuro neko” anymore, but “midori neko” – green cat?

Yamato Takyubin kuro neko (black cat) becomes midori neko (green cat)

Sources: Zaikei, Otanew (Japanese-language)

Mitsubishi Supplies 30 i-MiEVs for the Earthquake Relief Efforts

Posted by Stephen On Friday, March 18th, 2011

Mitsubishi is donating 30 i-MiEV electric cars (along with Triton pickups) to help with the disaster relief efforts in Japan. Apparently, the thinking is that with the current fuel shortages in some areas, being able to run vehicles on electricity could be an advantage to groups using them to provide relief and support to earthquake survivors.

Now, Mitsubishi is to be applauded for its generosity and desire to help in this time of crisis in Japan. That said, the fact is that electricity is also in short supply due to the damage suffered by the infrastructure and specifically the nuclear power generation capacity. Tokyo and other areas far from the earthquake zone are having to endure scheduled power cuts to keep a lid on demand. Now, I am not on the ground, so perhaps having electrically powered vehicles will be a significant advantage, but on the face of it there are questions about how well this donation of electric cars has been thought through.

It just shows how the current situation in Japan cuts to the heart of the debate about electric cars: It is all very well to have cars that run on “clean” electricity, but then there is the question of where that electricity comes from. If it is supplied by coastal nuclear power stations straddling major fault lines, then you have to wonder whether this is really preferable to using gasoline for power.

Source: MSN (Japanese-language)

Mitsubishi i-MiEV in First Euro NCAP EV Test – Gets 4 Stars

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, February 24th, 2011

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV has become the first commercial EV to be tested under the European NCAP regime. The rating of 4 stars it was awarded represented a loss of just one star, which is pretty impressive for a small vehicle anyway. The i-MiEV high capacity battery suffered no damage in the crash testing, and the high-voltage emergency disconnection system designed to protect occupants and rescue workers also worked correctly.

It seems to me that these results from the respected NCAP testing lab prove not only that small city cars provide a high level of safety, but also that EV safety systems have also reached a high level of sophistication and safety as well.

Although less commented upon than the range issue, the introduction of large high-capacity batteries and high voltages into vehicles does call for new safety systems and approaches that were not required in ICE vehicles. That is not to say that cars with internal combustion engines are inherently safer – large quantities of flammable fuel sloshing around is obviously a safety concern – but simply that the safety questions concerning how to deal with gasoline in vehicles have been worked on for quite some time, whereas the problems associated with mass-production electric vehicles are obviously much more recent.

That said, it looks like Mitsubishi is on top of things with this early mass-production EV.

Additional source: Response (Japanese-language)

Toyota iQ Electric Car Coming in 2012

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Toyota has been rather lukewarm about EVs, despite its tie up with Tesla Motors (with whom it is developing an electric version of the RAV4) in the US. On the other hand, it does not want to allow Nissan and Mitsubishi to leapfrog into the technology driving seat by ignoring electric vehicles completely. It only has to look at its own positioning as the de facto king of the hybrid market to realize that these technologies take a while to catch on, but that if they do the rewards to be reaped are enormous.

So, Toyota is taking a tentative step into commercial EV sales with the introduction of the electric iQ in 2012. The iQ is already designed as a frugal city car, so turning this into an electric vehicle makes a lot of sense. The problem with a city car of small dimensions is that there is already enough competition for space, so what happens when you add a battery pack to the equation? Toyota has solved this with the new flat battery pack from the plug in Prius which slots neatly under the floor, thus allowing the passenger compartment to be unimpeded with additional intrusions. The iQ is a marvel of packaging, so what you have here is a frugal, zero-emissions city car with a larger car feel.

Following Mitsubishi’s lead with the i-MiEV, Toyota is planning to start with fleet sales and then move into the consumer market after the initial teething issues have been ironed out there. Its smaller size should no doubt result in a lower retail price than competitors like the Leaf, so it looks like this 65-mile range EV could be a handy commuter car option when it goes on sale.

I am looking forward to the full reveal at the Geneva Motor Show to find out more.

Source: Autocar

Mazda Introducing New Demio-based EV in 2012

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Mazda Japan announced a new addition to the burgeoning EV (electric vehicle market) today with a new model based on its existing small hatchback, the Demio. This new electric model is aimed at businesses and other organizations and will be sold on a lease basis with a price of around or just below the 3 million Yen mark when it goes on sale in Spring 2012. This price will be achieved after taking into account various subsidies for this type of vehicle. The targeted range per charge will be 200km.

In many ways, Mazda’s approach seems conservative compared with that of Nissan (Leaf) and Mitsubishi (i-MiEV). While launching this new electric car, Mazda is also making much of its gasoline engine technological progress to reduce emissions using start-stop technology and the use of light-weight materials. In many ways it is at the rear of the pack of the large Japanese manufacturers in this sense, as it has neither the hybrid focus of Toyota, nor has it fully embraced electric technology in the way that Nissan has. It remains to be seen whether this conservative “toe-in-the-water” approach will be enough to see Mazda through the next decade of inevitable change. Only time will tell in this regard.

Source: Nikkei (Japanese)