The prize for most charged major automaker at the Geneva Auto Salon goes to Mitsubishi, hands down. The majority of Mitsu’s exhibit space was devoted to electrified vehicles, and electro-themed videos played nonstop.
At center stage were two flashy concept cars: the CA-MiEV, a red-hot electric hatchback with a 28 kWh battery that gives it a range of 186 miles, triple that of the i-MiEV; and the GR-HEV, a futuristic sport pickup with a diesel hybrid powertrain.
The former features wireless charging, which Mitsubishi is working on in a joint venture with Boston-based WiTricity, and which may be incorporated into the next generation i-MiEV, or…
…the new Outlander plug-in hybrid SUV, which boasts fuel economy of 149 mpg and a 32-mile electric range. She was on display in a déshabille version, allowing visitors to see all the details of the 117 bhp 2.0 liter gas engine that powers the front wheels, and the front and rear 60 kW electric motors that provide the Outlander with permanent four-wheel drive.
The new PHEV went on sale in Japan in January, and as Daniel Nacass, General Manager of Public Relations for Europe, told us, demand has been overwhelming. “The numbers of orders we have is way beyond our capacity, so now we are increasing capacity to meet demand.” The Outlander PHEV will go on sale in Europe this summer – no word on a US launch date yet. Pricing will depend on the market, but it appears European buyers will be paying around 50,000 Euros, a slight premium over the diesel version, which goes for around 45,000.
Mitsu has said that it plans to offer electrified powertrains on 20 percent of its lineup by 2020. According to Mr Nacass, “We split the range, according to technology, so pure electric for us is more appropriate to small cars – A segment and B segment. For mid-size and bigger, [we prefer] HEV and PHEV.”
To date, EV sales have been slower in Europe than in the US, but Mitsubishi seems to be bucking the trend – the i-MiEV’s strongest sales have been in Europe and Japan. Asked if this was by design, Mr Nacass answered with an emphatic no. “All our cars are global vehicles, we plan to sell them everywhere. There might be a stronger inclination for electric cars in Japan and Europe, because our cities are more crowded. Overall we’ve noticed that there is a slower start in EV sales than anticipated, which is a combination of – especially here in Europe – the economic crisis, price – these are still expensive cars – and infrastructure. We do cars, we don’t do infrastructure, so we’re dependent on other parties to do that.”
“The market for EVs is very much dependent on incentives, so in countries where tax incentives and the political will to promote EVs are there, sales are strong,” says Mr N. “In Norway, the i-MiEV is in the top three of the A segment (the smallest size), all powertrains included. Norway [has done] some simple things, such as opening the bus lanes to EVs, that don’t cost anything – it’s pure political will.” Here in Switzerland, the i-MiEV (aka the Citroën C-Zéro) is the best-selling pure EV, although overall electric sales are still petit. “We are really at the dawn of something new – don’t expect it to happen overnight.”