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Japanese electric vehicle manufacturer aggressively targeting North America

On Tuesday Mitsubishi Motors selected Hawaii to be among the first states to receive the North American-spec production version of the auto manufacturer’s electric-powered vehicle.  The company and the State of Hawaii entered into an agreement to enhance infrastructure and deploy the new Mitsubishi i vehicles and other advanced electric-powered vehicles (EVs) in the island. The agreement includes deployment of DC Quick Chargers that are capable of charging the lithium battery in 20 minutes. The accord with Mitsubishi is part of Hawaii’s target to reach clean energy goal of 70 percent within the next 20 years.

The Mitsubishi i vehicles come with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $27,990 for the base ES model before a federal tax credit of $7,500 and Hawaii’s clean energy rebate of up to $4,500.

Mitsubishi Motors and the state are expected to launch a series of EV-related advancements in areas which include: making Mitsubishi i electric vehicles and service training available through the dealership; supporting emerging businesses and business models related to EV development and workforce deployment helping create job opportunities in the area of green technologies.

In the middle of September, Hawaii is hosting a conference for international leaders and energy experts in the clean energy movement as they participate in the 2011 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo. The event is expected to include a roster of world-renown speakers with insights into the implications of advanced renewable energy technologies along with cutting-edge projects, perspectives on policy issues, and investment and financing opportunities.

Northern exposure

In Canada Mitsubishi has launched the largest EV trial to date, in coordination with Hydro-Quebec, following the delivery of iMEVs to Boucherville businesses selected to participate in the second phase of trials.

Lithium industry investors might take note of how well vehicles respond in this challenging context of climate and geography despite the fact that the North American marketplace is considered to be a relatively minor segment for future global EV demand. Pike Research forecasts an annual plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) market in the United States of about 359,000 vehicles by 2017; however, the majority of demand is expected in California and New York City.  Another challenge that remains is as government officials and utility managers plan for the arrival of grid-connected vehicles, they need to understand where those vehicles are going to be located and what the impact could be.

President and Chief Executive Officer of Hydro-Québec issued a very optimistic statement, “We are delighted with the response we’ve received from Boucherville businesses. This second phase brings us to the very heart of the project, focusing on the needs of businesses and their employees who work in Boucherville.”  Jean Martel, Mayor of Boucherville and spokesperson for the project’s institutional users added, “I hope that drivers working for the businesses selected in the second phase will be as delighted as I am to be driving an i-MIEV. The project has not only caught the attention of Boucherville businesses, but also sparked considerable interest among citizens.”

The EV testing by Hydro-Quebec has been designed to study users’ charging habits, driving experiences and overall satisfaction. In addition, the tests will study vehicle behavior when the cars are plugged into the electric grid. The EV testing program is part of an initiative which began on April 7 when the Quebec government passed the Action Plan for Electric Vehicles.

Global footprint

According to Japanese English newspaper the Nikkei, Mitsubishi intends to manufacture and deliver 25,000 i-MiEVs worldwide by the end of fiscal year 2011, a threefold increase over 2010. Including sales to individuals, businesses and government agencies, Mitsubishi reportedly aims to deliver 15,000 i-MiEVs overseas, mainly to Europe.  Mitsubishi Motors will reportedly reach out to Europe’s public sector, including police departments, utility companies and even numerous municipalities in an effort to boost sales of its electric i-MiEV.  The automaker is anticipating that Europe’s public sector, which has been considered to emphasize environmental protection, will be amenable to subsidizing the technology compared with conventional internal combustion engine transportation formats.

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