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Mitsubishi i-MiEV price fighter

Volume-production means the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car will be 'affordable', with cheaper running costs long-term.

Mitsubishi boss Rob McEniry is making that promise as the company's first two electric cars roll off a container ship in Brisbane. The two Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi Electric Vehicle) models have arrived for an 'education and evaluation process' but not for sale, McEniry says.

The vehicles will be issued to media and government officials for evaluation and to "start the public education process of future mobility and propulsion". McEniry says 40 more i-MiEVs will arrive later this year.

"Governments will be the first customers in the market," he says. "I can't tell you what the price is yet, but the price of electric vehicles is coming down rapidly and that is why we are cautious of saying the price now. By the time the next batch arrives next year we will be ready to tell."

"When it gets into volume production it will be affordable; not much more expensive than comparable sized cars. But running costs will make them cheaper over the whole of the life of the vehicle. I can tell you it will not be as expensive or as big a premium over comparative-sized cars as the (hybrid) Prius."

Mitsubishi i-MiEV project manager Ashley Sanders says the car could be fully charged off the mains power supply in seven hours and would run for 160km on one charge. A quick-charge station would charge the battery to 80 per cent of its capacity in 30 minutes, but the infrastructure was not available here yet, he says.

The 1080kg city car has batteries under the floor which will last 'the life of the car', or a minimum of 10 years, he says. Sanders says the first evaluation vehicle that arrived here last year for homologation and testing had experienced 'no major problems or battery overheating'.

McEniry says the i-MiEV will "not only be able to plug in, but take its power when the grid is at its lowest demand. And the next generation model will be able to put back electricity that it has created into the grid at high demand times".

The two cars here for evaluation are Japanese specification, but the models to be sold here will be European production models with higher specification. "They will arrive as one spec first up, but as volume increase, we will offer different specs," McEniry says.

Queensland Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones says drivers could get incentives such as cheaper rego, be able to drive solo in transit lanes and get cheap or free city parking to switch to electric cars. The incentives are being considered under the government's new electric vehicle policy to be released by the end of the year. Jones says the arrival of the i-MiEV would draw attention to Queensland's electric vehicle policy.

"We will look at a number of incentives for people to switch to electric vehicles," she says. "We are hoping Queensland can be in the forefront of electric vehicles when they hit the road in 2011. I was one of the first to drive a Prius and I still do, and I will put up my hand to drive one of these."

She says electric vehicles would help reduce pollution in big cities. "Personal vehicles represent 80 per cent of the transport emissions in Queensland," she says. "If we see a significant shift to electric cars we would see that drop. Therefore we would look at incentives such as cheaper registration ... use of transit lanes as they do in California and I'm sure Brisbane City Council would look at the issue of (discounted) parking. We do not want to go into this without looking at all the issues. We also need to look at the waste products as part of our policy."

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