Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. introduces three “i” minicar variants to North America at the New York International Auto Show today.

The first is the plug-in I-MiEV electric vehicle, which is scheduled to launch in Japan next year. The I-MiEV is powered by a 330-volt lithium-ion battery that drives a permanent magnet-electric motor.

The battery was developed in conjunction with Lithium Energy Japan and boasts a 100-mile (161-km) range on a single charge, Mitsubishi says.

Details of a U.S. I-MiEV test-fleet program are being hammered out, and an announcement is pending. “The test fleet is the first stop prior to commercialization,” says Mitsubishi spokesman Moe Durand, noting the development of a quick-charge system for the vehicle also is under way.

The i-MiEV’s battery pack can be recharged in about 14 hours via a 110-volt outlet, or in half that time through a 220-volt power source, he says.

The second vehicle to be displayed is the i-MiEV Sport concept electric vehicle, which boasts a “fastback” roofline.

The performance-oriented vehicle features a midship layout that optimizes interior space and ideally situates the drivetrain’s electrical components to enhance handling, Mitsubishi says.

The Sport uses a rigid, lightweight-aluminum frame for improved range and leverages the instant torque provided by electric vehicles for increased performance.

The Sport is powered by three electric motors – two 27-hp (20-kW) motors built into each front wheel, as well as a 63-hp (47-kW) motor motivating the rear wheels. Power output, traction and braking at all four wheels are controlled by Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control system.

Further enhancing the Sport’s performance is the auto maker’s new Electronic Active Yaw Control system, which Mitsubishi says produces the same torque-vectoring characteristics as the Lancer Evolution, providing “playful road manners while maximizing stability and control.”

The Sport boasts a bevy of environmentally friendly features, including heat-absorbing window glass that improves air-conditioning efficiency. Low-drain light-emitting diodes are used throughout the interior and exterior.

Other environmentally focused components include an auxiliary photovoltaic generator on the roof that captures solar energy and funnels it back into the vehicle, turbines in the front grille that harness wind power and regenerative brakes that capture the energy produced while braking.

The third minicar to be shown is Mitsubishi’s original “i” that has been on sale in Japan since 2006. The “i” is powered by a 0.66L turbocharged 3-cyl. gasoline engine. Despite its diminutive size of 100.4 ins. (255 cm), the “i” can accommodate four adults.

Mitsubishi also shows off its Concept-cX in New York. First shown in Tokyo last fall, the Concept cX showcases a “forward-thinking, small cross/utility vehicle design that offers road and environmental performance.”

Powered by a 1.8L clean diesel engine mated to Mitsubishi’s twin-clutch sport-shift transmission, the Concept-cX features high-tech, energy-absorbing materials in certain body panels that help restore their original form after minor collisions, Mitsubishi says. Additionally, the auto maker is showing its Lancer series – the performance-oriented Lancer Evolution, ’09 Lancer GTS 2.4 and turbocharged Lancer Ralliart that slots between the GTS and the Evolution.

The Ralliart boasts a twin-clutch SST gearbox, full-time 4-wheel drive and active center differential. The car is scheduled to arrive at U.S. dealerships this summer.

bpope@wardsauto.com