What was the primary mass-produced electrical automobile, after the GM EV1?

No, it’s not the Nissan Leaf

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV was, by many assessments, a pioneer as a devoted electrical automobile. It was supposed to be mass-produced, not a easy conversion, and extensively accessible (a minimum of in some markets). Though first put in check fleets in 2007, it was provided for public buy in Japan beginning in 2009—greater than a 12 months earlier than first Nissan Leaf deliveries. 

The oddly styled electrical minicar hasn’t been offered within the U.S. for the reason that 2017 mannequin 12 months, when gross sales had basically coasted to a halt on their very own, from an underwhelming U.S. gross sales peak of simply over 1,000 offered in 2013. And in keeping with a report final month from the Japanese newswire Nikkei, Mitsubishi may cease making its little i-MiEV electrical automobile by the tip of this Japanese fiscal 12 months—by March 2021.

Though the transfer hasn’t been publicly confirmed, Nikkei quotes an unnamed government as saying: “We did not come up with the money for and personnel to proceed investing in EV improvement.”

The i-MiEV wasn’t initially supposed to be the vertically built-in world effort that the Leaf was. The Nissan Leaf beat the i-MiEV to the market within the U.S. by greater than a 12 months. 

2011 Mitsubishi i-Miev EuroNCAP Test

2011 Mitsubishi i-Miev EuroNCAP Take a look at

To promote the i-MiEV within the U.S., Mitsubishi basically re-engineered a Japanese kei-car-based automobile, widening its monitor, making all the automobile about 8 inches wider, and including extra side-impact safety and facet airbags.

That stated, it by no means actually slot in Stateside. With a 66-hp permanent-magnet motor in again, the i-MiEV was one of many slowest-accelerating electrical automobiles on the U.S. marketplace for a lot of the time it was accessible. However with rear-wheel-drive, staggered tire sizes, and a reasonably comfortable suspension with fast, vivid steering, the i-MiEV was all the time surprisingly good fun to drive around town. 

And driving round city was actually all we’d advise. In U.S.-spec, the i-MiEV got here with a 16-kwh battery pack that yielded an EPA vary ranking of simply 62 miles. Use the local weather management or go a lot above 50 mph for lengthy, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the vary it is best to rely on was about half that. 

With its tall, boxy physique, low-mounted battery pack, and easy-folding rear seatbacks, the i-MiEV had some wonderful inside packaging, too. When GCR final revisited the i-MiEV for a follow-up drive, in 2015, we gave it a shopping-trip benefit over the e-Golf due to its peak. 

2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Quick Drive

2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Fast Drive

By the point of the i-MiEV’s introduction, Mitsubishi had already offered tens of hundreds of i-MiEVs in Japan and Europe, and within the U.S. it deliberate to comply with the i-MiEV a 12 months later with the Outlander PHEV and one other EV quickly after that—an electrified reboot, basically. However issues didn’t precisely go in keeping with plan.

To that time, the dealership Mitsubishi organized as a stopover alongside the best way on its first U.S. drive alternative for the i-MiEV in 2011—stated to be an instance of the course Mitsubishi needed to go together with extra technology-centric shows and EV-savvy salespeople—was out of enterprise inside a pair years. The Outlander PHEV lastly arrived within the U.S. in 2018. And that second EV seems to have been quietly minimize alongside the best way. 

Pair of Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars parked at work [photo: Jen Danzinger]

Pair of Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrical automobiles parked at work [photo: Jen Danzinger]

Going again a long time, Mitsubishi was one of many quirkiest, most tech-savvy, and most revolutionary of the Japanese automakers. Lower than 10 years in the past the i-MiEV felt like a promising extension of that. However on reflection, it was the tip of an period.