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Auto blogTue, 05 Mar 2013 11:31:00 EST
Mitsubishi is stretching the electric jellybean. For years, the i-MiEV was regular presence at Mitsubishi's auto show booths around the world, and the car rightfully earned its nickname because of its rounded shape. Today, at the Geneva Motor Show, Mitsubishi finally unveiled a version of the i-MiEV that looks much more more at home among the alternative-powertrain car fleet of the near future.
But there's more being elongated here than just the shape. The official range of the standard i (as the i-MiEV is known in the US) is 62 miles. The Concept CA-MiEV - where the CA stands for Compact and Advanced - is supposed to be able to go 300 kilometers (186 miles) from a 28-kWh lithium-ion battery and lightweight 80-kW motor/inverter/charger unit. This is kind of astonishing, given the range estimates of other compact and midsize EVs on the market today - most are in the 80-100-mile range. Of course, the specific test used to get the 186-mile result matters, too, since the regular i received 98 miles on the LA4 driving cycle range. The US-i has a 16-kWh pack.
The increased distance means that Mitsubishi is talking about the Concept CA-MiEV as the "suburban EV," with enough range for "about one week of driving for an average European driver." If you need more, Mitsubishi hints that the flat battery pack leaves room for a range-extender. Add in convenience features like WiTricity wireless charging and the ability for the car to send an emergency email if it's stolen, and you've got the commuting vehicle of the future. With a coefficient of drag of just 0.26 and boomerang lights, of course.
Preparing for next month's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Mitsubishi - the presenting sponsor of this year's PPIHC - has unveiled its entrant for the race: the all-electric MiEV Evolution II. Building off last year's MiEV-inspired entrant, the Evolution II has received numerous improvements, including a more powerful electric drive system, a lower center of gravity and even a more traditional racecar look. Driving a pair of MiEV Evolution II models this year will be Hiroshi Masuoka from Mitsubishi vehicle development and six-time PPIHC motorcycle winner, Greg Tracy.
Both MiEV Evolution II racers employ a quartet of electric motors (last year's car used just three), and output has been increased from 280 kilowatts (375 horsepower) up to 400 KW (536 hp). For improved handling, the cars' lithium-ion battery packs help provide lower centers of gravity, and both Masuoka's and Tracy's cars have received active yaw control, stability control and redesigned anti-lock braking systems. Hopefully, this will help them stick to the mountain better. As previously mentioned, even their look has changed, with less of a wide-body i-MiEV feel and more of a racecar appearance. We think the finished product would actually make for a pretty cool Le Mans Prototype racer, or perhaps an electrically powered rival for trackday cars like those from Radical.
Mitsubishi makes the brilliantly fast, wonderfully fun Lancer Evolution. Outside of that road-going rally car, the rest of the range is pretty poor - the new Outlander isn't bad, but the subcompact Mirage looks like might've been competitive five years ago, while the Galant and Lancer have suffered from serial neglect.
This hasn't just lead to rumors of Mitsu's death in America; the subsidiary of the massive Mitsubishi Group has been in trouble at home, too. It was bailed out by three other Mitsubishi Group companies - Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Corporation - between 2004 and 2005, according to Bloomberg. Now, it's attempting to extricate itself from "emergency mode," as analyst Koichi Sugimoto told the financial site, adding that "they're still in the very early stages of recovery."
As part of the bailout, Mitsubishi issued its three saviors billions of dollars of preferred shares, which don't have voting rights. The problem is, Mitsubishi hasn't issued dividend payments since 1998, and these stocks aren't exactly competing with Apple or Google, in terms of value. In other words, they're mostly worthless. With a public offering, Mitsubishi is expecting to raise 200 billion yen, or about $2 billion, in order to reduce the number of preferred shares. If all goes according to plan, it will wipe out preferred shares by March of 2014, or the end of fiscal year 2013.