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Concept-Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Preview

By Jeff Youngs, February 24, 2012
Critical Knowledge:
  • Battery-powered, mini-sized sport coupe

  • Closely related to i MiEV hatchback, which goes on sale in Japan in 2009

  • Sale of Mitsubishi electric vehicles (EVs) in U.S. is distinct possibility

  • Could be quick-charged or charged overnight

  • Tri-motor system: In-wheel electric motors up front, plus a single motor for the rear wheels
Introduction
Mitsubishi doubtless surprised quite a few visitors to the New York Auto Show, in March 2008, by promoting a pair of small electric cars. Planned for sale next year in Japan, the egg-shaped 4-door i MiEV hatchback is undergoing testing by six utility companies in that country, where a public road-testing program is underway. Mitsubishi strongly hints that a battery-powered i MiEV might also be a candidate for sale in the U.S. market. Testing in America is scheduled to begin in fall of 2008.

Right next to the i MiEV hatchback stood an EV of a different stripe-though largely identical beneath the skin. Comparably minicar-sized, the i MiEV Sport Concept bears little resemblance to its hatchback cousin. The hatchback looks like it would fit right into the mini-hatchback league in Japan or Europe-but could be a harder sell in the U.S. Mitsubishi's i MiEV Sport, in contrast, takes the stubby-nose profile and transforms it into a mini-contender, with overtones of the Volkswagen New Beetle that debuted in 1998.

If fuel prices continue to skyrocket, the prospects for a commuter car that can be charged overnight at home-or quick-charged at work or in another location-might revitalize. A sporty-looking coup_ that runs on batteries might provide an extra inducement to uncertain prospects. Because it's still in concept form, however, availability of the i MiEV Sport in either Japan or the U.S. remains uncertain.

Mitsubishi isn't the only Japanese automaker to talk about mini-sized electric vehicles at the New York show. Subaru announced that a pair of them soon would undergo testing by the New York Power Authority. Nissan announced a forthcoming electric car, intended for sale in Japan by 2010 and in the U.S. about two years later.

Exterior Design
Like the i MiEV hatchback, the Sport coup_ has a rear-midship layout, with a cab-forward profile. Built on the same 100.4-inch wheelbase as the i MiEV 4-door version, the Sport coup_ is slightly longer overall: 135.5 inches. Measuring 63 inches wide, the coup_ is just 55 inches tall and aluminum wheels hold 175/45R17 tires. MacPherson struts make up the front suspension, with a DeDion axle at the rear.

As seen at the 2008 New York Auto Show, and the Tokyo show in fall of 2007, the i MiEV Sport was painted light green, said "to evoke images of nature and the environment." The pearlescent paint changes hue when viewed in direct sunlight. Triangular quarter windows and side-panel crease enhance the micro-coup_'s sporty appearance.

Interior Design
Inside the cockpit of the Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Concept is a geometric design, combining metallic-finish materials with blue indirect lighting. White and dark grey interior colors blend with mesh materials and genuine leather. Instruments sit in a large cluster ahead of the driver.

Hardware
Based on the same structure as the i MiEV hatchback, dubbed Mitsubishi's "environmental flagship," the i MiEV Sport uses an electric motor within each front wheel, plus a single motor for the rear wheels. That makes it a 4-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle, with Mitsubishi's S-AWC vehicle dynamics control system. S-AWC integrated the E-4WD system with E-AYC (Electric Active Yaw Control, anti-lock brakes, and Active Stability Control. Mitsubishi claims a top speed of 180 kilometers per hour (111 mph), and a range per charge of 200 kilometers (124 miles).

Lithium-ion batteries sit under the floor, while the inverter and charger go beneath the luggage compartment. That configuration helps produce a lower center of gravity and improve front/rear weight distribution, the company says. The Sport coup_ is built with an aluminum space frame structure, and the suspension uses many aluminum components.

Technology
Mitsubishi claims that the i MiEV Sport's lithium-ion batteries can be charged in a regular household AC outlet in 17 hours (8.5 hours at 200 volts AC). Quick-charging to 80 percent of capacity takes 35 minutes. Total battery voltage is 330. A separate quick-charging socket is installed. Mitsubishi says a wireless charging system has been installed in the Sport Concept. An energy recycling system includes regenerative braking, along with auxiliary solar panels and wind turbine fans, to maximize use of natural energy.
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