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'Uneconomic in its current form' to bring $30,000 electric car to Australia: Why we won't see the Mitsubishi eK X EV kei car here to undercut Chinese BYD Dolphin, GWM Ora and MG4

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Mitsubishi eK X EV
Mitsubishi eK X EV

It sounds like the wind has gone from the sails of Mitsubishi’s business case to bring the eK X EV electric kei car to Australia for as little as $30,000.

Following an extended evaluation involving media test drives in Japan and Australia, the carmaker has deemed the diminutive EV would be “uneconomic” to import … for now.  

The reason, partly, are Australian Design Rules (ADRs) that have several unique requirements defining them from those seen in the Europe Union, United Kingdom or Japan. 

It is worth noting that, as a kei car (which must be less that 3.4 metres long, 1.48 metres wide and 2.0 metres tall), the eK X (pronounced ee-kay cross) EV is starting from a harder base than most. 

The stats aren’t incredible with a 20kWh battery pack (identical to that found in the Outlander plug-in hybrid) driving a single 47kW/195Nm electric motor.

The rated range is 180km, however real-world reports put that closer to 150km. Not hugely impressive next to the BYD Dolphin (340km WLTP and 70kW/180Nm). The eK X EV would likely be hit with a three-star ANCAP safety rating, too. 

Mitsubishi eK X EV
Mitsubishi eK X EV

Yet there are safety features, including AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, seven airbags, lane-departure warning, ISOFIX child seat anchorages, while adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist are optional in Japan. 

There are niceties such as artificial leather upholstery, front seat heating, a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, front and rear parking sensors. It even has a remarkably spacious cabin. 

But Mitsubishi says it’s not necessarily low demand stopping the eK X coming here but regulatory red tape – and Mitsubishi understands low demand after the ill-fated i-Miev electric kei car. 

Mitsubishi eK X EV
Mitsubishi eK X EV

“The vehicle conforms to Japanese Type Approval and safety requirements, however the cost and time investment to update the vehicle to achieve Australian Type Approval and to conform with ADRs makes it uneconomic in its current form as an entry city car,” reads a statement issued by Mitsubishi Australia. 

Mitsubishi did not detail the exact issues, but CarsGuide understands that ADRs 34/03—Child Restraint Anchorages and Child Restraint Anchor fittings, ADR 61/03—Vehicle Marking and ADR 42/05—General Safety Requirements and ADR 81/02—Fuel Consumption Labelling play a role. 

The brand has suggested direct type approval from major markets, such as Japan, Europe, the United Kingdom, could hasten the process that usually takes 18-24 months. More fuel efficient vehicles are crucial to the brand as the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard (NVES) takes effect next year. 

Mitsubishi eK X EV
Mitsubishi eK X EV

Interestingly, Nissan is also calling for streamlined type approval. It manufactures a twin to the Mitsubishi eK X EV, the Sakura EV. One could certainly open up the door for the other. 

“You have to remember that tastes change. Everyone wants big utes these days, or SUVs, but just a decade ago smaller cars like the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 were in the top-three sellers. And Australia also has a history of enjoying really small cars, remember the Daihatsus, the Mighty Boys, and even our own Mirage," Mitsubishi Australia’s General Manager Strategy Oliver Mann told CarsGuide

“And the fact is that selling a car like this, a small EV with zero emissions, would help our overall CO2 figures and help us to achieve our sales targets for Mitsubishi Triton.”

Mitsubishi eK X EV
Mitsubishi eK X EV

Japan is generally lagging in the cheap electric car race, with well-documented advances from China being joined by Korea, thanks to Hyundai’s cool looking Inster. European brands, including Volkswagen and Renault, are scrambling to get on the program, too.

John Law
Deputy News Editor
Born in Sydney’s Inner West, John wasn’t treated to the usual suite of Aussie-built family cars growing up, with his parents choosing quirky (often chevroned) French motors that shaped his love of cars. The call of motoring journalism was too strong to deny and in 2019 John kickstarted his career at Chasing Cars. A move to WhichCar and Wheels magazine exposed him to a different side of the industry and the glossy pages of physical magazines. John is back on the digital side of things at CarsGuide, where he’s taken up a role as Deputy News Editor spinning yarns about the latest happenings in the automotive industry. When he isn’t working, John can be found tooling around in either his 2002 Renault Clio Sport 172 or 1983 Alfasud Gold Cloverleaf.  
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