Electric Vehicles photo

Today Mitsubishi unveiled the production version of the iMiEV, the company’s pure-electric car, and announced that it will come to market pretty much right away—next month, in Japan. (No North American launch date has been announced.) Mitsubishi is calling the four-seat minicar the “ultimate eco-car,” the first step toward making EVs 20 percent of its business by 2020. Between July and next April, Mitsubishi plans to lease 1,400 of the cars to commercial customers; then, next April, they’ll go on sale for 4,380,000 Japanese Yen (about $44,700), a price that should be reduced substantially by a 1,390,000 JPY ($14,160) government subsidy.

Like every other electric car or plug-in hybrid slated for release over the next few years, the iMiEV runs on lithium-ion batteries— in this case, a pack of 88 cells that together store 16 kilowatt-hours of energy. The batteries hide beneath the floor, leaving room for a surprising amount of interior space and seating for four. The car has three different charging modes and can charge in anywhere from 14 hours (from a 100 V wall outlet) to 30 minutes (from one of the quick-charging stations that Mitisbuishi says are being build throughout Japan.) The iMiEV has a top speed of about 90 mph and a range of up to 100 miles per charge.

We drove a pre-production iMiEV last fall at the L.A. Auto Show and came away impressed— it was quick, smooth, and felt much more substantial and dialed-in than its mall-cop-mobile appearance might suggest. Our sense is that the iMiEV might be a little too expensive and a little too cartoonishly Japanese to catch on in the U.S. outside of New York, San Francisco, and LA, but there’s also no telling what they’ll do to the design before it comes to our shores— whenever that happens.