Back in June, Mitsubishi unveiled the production version of its i-MiEV battery electric vehicle. The curious-looking five-door hatch went on sale in Japan six weeks later at a retail cost of ¥3 million ($33,800). It runs off a 16 kWh lithium ion battery, which powers an electric motor for about 100 miles per charge.
At the time of the unveiling, there was some discussion about the possibility of Mitsubishi selling the i-MiEV in the U.S., and news eventually followed that the BEV will roll onto American lots in mid-2011. Now comes word that Mitsubishi may also roll out a gas version of the i-MiEV for U.S. consumers.
This wouldn't require a great deal of effort on Mitsubishi's part: the company already sells a gas version of the i-MiEV in Japan and Europe, where it's known simply as the "i". In that configuration, the car's powertrain centers on a turbocharged 660cc gas engine -- though according to John Koenig at Mitsubishi Motors North America, a U.S. version would ditch that in favor of a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder with no turbocharging.
Though EVs may be popular in the press, offering a gasoline option for the i-MiEV is a wise move for Mitsubishi -- at least as far as U.S. sales are concerned. Not only are American consumers extremely comfortable with gas-powered engines (even to the detriment of diesel), but there's also that pesky issue of range-anxiety to consider (though the i-MiEV's hundred-mile range seems pretty reasonable). A combustion engine would address those concerns and allow the i-MiEV to wedge its way further into the increasingly crowded citycar segment, taking on vehicles like the Smart ForTwo. We'll keep you posted on the possibile gas-powered i-MiEV as news comes our way.