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Mitsubishi is keen to offer what could be Australia’s most affordable electric car as part of a new-look line up, but there are some major concerns holding the brand back from committing to the unique all-electric hatch.
First of all, the car in question is the 2023 eK X EV - an all electric microcar which starts from the equivalent of $29,300 in its home market of Japan.
The eK X is built to suit Japanese Kei regulations, which require cars to fit in a certain tight dimensional bracket, and have limited power outputs.
As such, if it were sold here the eK X would not only be one of the most affordable electric cars, but also one of the smallest new cars you could buy - even smaller than the diminutive Kia Picanto, measuring in at 3395mm long, 1475mm wide, and 1655mm tall.
Interestingly, the eK X actually has the same 20kWh battery pack as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, although in such a lightweight package it allows for a 180km driving range on a single charge instead of the heavier Outlander’s 85km pure EV range.
Due to its size, the eK X is also strictly a four-seater, and its front-mounted electric motor produces just 47kW/195Nm. It wears Mitsubishi’s latest ‘Dynamic Shield’ design language, and is packed with modern cabin tech. It is a shared project for the Japanese market, with Mitsubishi’s alliance partner, Nissan, which sells a version of the car called the Sakura.
Mitsubishi’s Australian division has expressed interest in importing test examples as it looks to refresh its ageing line-up, add more models beyond just its popular Outlander, Triton, and Pajero Sport, and bring new appeal to the brand.
But some concerns are holding it back from definitively confirming the small EV for Australia. Firstly, aside from the Picanto, there is little precedent for the amount of volume a car like this could do in Australia, especially since it is fully electric, and secondly - perhaps the brand’s main concern, is ANCAP safety ratings.
Local product developer Oliver Mann explained: “It’s a balancing act, on the one hand you have to consider safety, because it won’t be a five-star ANCAP car, but on the other hand, we’re falling under more pressure when it comes to our CO2 targets, so we have to do something. It would make sense if vehicles moved in this direction. In some ways there should be a market in Australia for a small electric vehicle like this, which is used exclusively for short-distance travel.
"Even then it is a chicken-and-egg situation - right now it’s a product without a market, but on the other hand we should be moving in that direction and if we don’t try to introduce products like this, we won’t know.”
Mitsubishi admits that the eK X would likely fall afoul of ANCAP’s testing procedures, potentially burdening it with a one - to three star rating. Currently Mitsubishi’s line-up has two five-star vehicles, its most recent releases, the Outlander and Eclipse Cross, while the ASX, Pajero Sport, and Triton are now so old their previous five-star ratings have expired. The brand was recently burned locally with the introduction of the Renault Trafic-based Express van, which is the only vehicle to ever receive a zero-star rating from the testing authority.
The eK X would also need its charging port localised - the Japanese model has a 25kW CHAdeMO DC charger (0-80 per cent in 38 minutes) and a US-standard Type 1 AC Charger, but AC Chargers are on the Type 2 standard in Australia, max AC charging speed is 3kW for a charge time of six hours from 10 per cent.
For Mitsubishi though, there’s also a degree of sentimentality and brand value adding to the appeal of the eK X EV; “We were the first in Australia with a car like this with the i-MiEV” Mann explained, “Perhaps that was a car ahead of its time, but it would be nice to continue that story.”
For those willing to look past the potential safety concerns and limited range the equipment levels on the eK X are impressive for such a small vehicle. Standard equipment includes LED headlights, a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, heated steering wheel, cloth interior trim, a 9.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and either 14-inch steel wheels or 15-inch alloy wheels.
Despite a potentially low crash safety rating, the eK X does come equipped with a comparatively high level of active safety gear, including auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, driver attention alert, and traffic sign recognition. On the options list in the Japanese market is auto parking, radar cruise control, lane keep assist, and a surround view monitor. Blind spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert are not available.
The eK X also scores seven airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag, but no centre airbag which would be required for such a small car to have a chance at achieving a five-star rating.
Mitsubishi is at a turning point, as it transitions away from its older models and to an entirely new line-up with brand new platforms, but also new vehicles on Alliance platforms shared with both Nissan and Renault. It intends to roll out 16 new models globally over the next five years, which will include four fully electric vehicles and five hybrids.