We’ve seen some bold moves in the electric vehicle industry over the past few months, but this may be the most ambitious of them all: Mitsubishi reportedly plans to offer either an electric-only, or plug-in hybrid version of every vehicle in its model range within four years.
Instead of creating an electric and plug-in hybrid version of each model, Mitsubishi will offer electric-only and gasoline-powered versions of smaller vehicles, and plug-in hybrid versions and gasoline versions of its larger and higher-performance vehicles.
If it is successful, Mitsubishi will become the first major automaker to complete a full transition to electric power.
The Japanese auto manufacturer already has taken concrete steps toward this goal. The 2012 i-MiEV electric minicar is already on sale in the United States, and a plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander SUV is scheduled for release this fall.
But, hurdles remain in the way of Mitsubishi’s goal. Consumers have been slow to embrace all-electric vehicles, as low overall Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt sales can attest (though, notably, first-year sales were a few times higher than first-year sales of now extremely popular hybrids, like the Prius). The Toyota Prius is now an overwhelming success, now third overall in global auto sales, but Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid technology is unproven and would have to compete with the established Prius brand.
Still, Mitsubishi’s effort seems promising. The i-MiEV was named to Kelley Blue Book’s “10 Best Green Cars of 2012” list, and company executives are similarly bullish on the hybrid Outlander. “It offers the performance of a 3.0-liter V6 petrol engine,” said Lance Bradley, managing director of Mitsubishi UK. “We know the technology works and that it is good.”
Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy public relations company based in Washington, D.C.