The company made the famous Japanese Zero during WW2. The Zero was formidable in combat from Wake Island to Kamakazie raids on aircraft carriers.
After the war, Mitsubishi began ventures into petrochemical and nuclear areas. The company is now the largest Japanese trading company with 200 firms in 80 countries and over 50,000 workers. EVs are under serious development in Japan
For the record, The Japan Electric Vehicle Club has just set a world distance record for an electric car on one full charge. 17 drivers completed 1,456 laps on an oval track in Ibaraki Shimotsuma. The speed was 40 km/h (25mph), the car a converted Daihatsu Mira. The EV total distance added up to an amazing 1003km (623 mi).
The iMiev is the latest of a series of electric cars developed since the company began investigation into the technology in the 1970s. The iMiev began life as a converted 2005 Dodge Colt with 2-in wheel electric motors for power. After several variations of the in wheel design, the iMiev as is today was developed in 2006.
The car was first produced in 2009. It is one of the first of a new wave of electric cars on the market. Utility companies and other agencies have been field testing the Miev platform since 2007.
The iMiev lists good performance specs, with a 16kWh Li-Ion battery pack boosting the car to an 80mph/130kph and a top speed for a range of 75 miles (130km). The car is light by western standards at around 2,068 lbs/ 940 kg empty. Note that the 16kWh of battery storage translates to the energy equivalent of approximately one half a US gallon of gasoline!
In the looks department, the wheels of the car are designed to be as close as possible to the very corners of the car. This plus a rather wide expanse of front glass gives the car a somewhat unique appearance.
Some of the more critical comments regarding iMiev performance centered on range issues. It appears that in cold weather, the published range value of drops quite a bit. This issue may be addressed mode definitively with the results of a 50 vehicle Canadian field trial by Hydro-Quebec.
An iMiev recently tested in for one week in Tokyo met with positive results, and an interesting comment regarding the state of EV development in that area. As the batteries reached empty, an onboard navigation system provided locations of close by quick chargers. The Japanese government is aiding in developing a national infrastructure of so called "eco stations". Tokyo already has a bunch of fast charge points installed.
The car is for sale in Japan for around $40,000 (USD), $50,000 (USD) in Hong Kong (50 only available) and a bit more in the UK. The cars are not yet on sale in the USA.
So far, around 1,500 iMiev's have been marketed in 2010. Production numbers for 2010 have been estimated at 5,000 units.