Los Angeles 2010: Mitsubishi MiEV Dubbed I for U.S. Duty

Automobile Staff
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Never mind the MiEV -- although Mitsubishi's new U.S.-spec micro machine is indeed an electric vehicle, the company is officially referring to it here in the states as the 2011 Mitsubishi I.

Apart from the name change, Mitsubishi has changed little else to ready its egg-shaped electric car for North American consumption. Predictably, the car has grown ever so slightly. According to the company, the car is now a foot longer (albeit it is only 12 feet in length) and four inches wider than its Japanese-spec cousin. The majority of the modifications involve modifying the I to appease DOT and FMVSS regulations.

New front and rear bumpers are taller and thicker than before, and incorporate requisite side marker lamps at each corner. Taillamp lenses are no longer clear, and Mitsu has also replaced the single wiper arm with a twin arm setup. Stability control is standard, as is a tire pressure monitoring system. Inside, the car receives a revised dashboard with vertically arranged HVAC controls, an integrated radio receiver, and a two-tone color scheme with upgraded seat fabrics.

Underneath the skin, the U.S.-spec I is largely identical to its Japanese twins, leaving a 63-horsepower electric motor to drive the rear axle. Power continues to be supplied by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which can be recharged in 8 hours using a 220-volt supply. Mitsubishi has, however, retuned the regenerative braking to a less aggressive, highway-friendly setting. This revision, along with roughly 100 extra pounds of weight, prompted the manufacturer to label U.S.-bound examples with an estimated range of 85 miles. Your results, of course, will vary -- long stretches of cruising at the I's top speed of 85 mph will substantially alter that figure.

Mitsubishi hasn't released finalized pricing for the I quite yet, but officials estimate the car to carry a base price of $30,000 before factoring in any local, state, or federal incentives. Four states -- California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii -- will receive the I by the end of 2011, largely because they offer a $5000 incentive on top of the federal $7500 tax credit. Mitsubishi will launch the I in northeastern states in 2012, and ultimately the remainder of the U.S. and Canada by 2013.

--Evan McCausland

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