The mission of Mitsubishi’s iFamily is to find out whether city-dwelling American and European buyers want a small, cute (and we’d guess cheap) car – and whether they want an electric model.
The 'i' has been on sale in Japan since 2006 and in 2009 it will be joined by the i MiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle) powered by a lithium-ion battery beneath the floor. The ability to share a platform gives a boost to the viability of the electric car.
The cute i MiEV Sport Concept shown in New York (and previously shown in Tokyo 2007) shares this powertrain, and its almost vertical front makes the most of its absent engine.
We took a first-generation iMiEV for a spin around the streets of the Big Apple and were impressed by the smooth nature of the powertrain. There was no ‘on-off jerk’ in traffic and the little bug zipped rapidly out of the way of ongoing Yellow Cabs.
Janis Little, director for product and brand communications, told us that these cars would need to be modified to meet US crash test regulations, but Mitsubishi can do it easily if the demand is there. For now, the cars will be tested in co-operation with the electricity companies to see if the range is reliable and to investigate charging options.