Mitsubishi's electric i-MiEV is for real

Mitsubishi's four-door electric car is no longer just a design study or a prototype – the company has just announced that by the end of August, it had delivered 387 units to companies and local authorities in Japan. Sales to individuals won't begin until April next year, but a number of pre-orders have already been received.

The standard petrol-powered Mitsubishi “i”, on which the i-MiEV is based, has a very compact rear-engined, rear-wheel drive layout similar to that of the Smart Fortwo, which seems especially well-suited to accommodating a conversion to an electric drive-train.

Last week, Peugeot announced that it would adopt the i-MiEV as part of its range – it will be called the i0n when it goes on sale with a Peugeot badge at the end of 2010. It is perhaps a surprise to see Peugeot adopting another manufacturer's design in this area, given that its 106 Electric (sold from 1995 to 2003) is claimed to be the best-selling electric car ever, but this perhaps also points to the strength of the i-MiEV as a product.

Mitsubishi has had i-MiEVs in the UK for demonstration purposes since earlier this year and I had the chance to drive one very briefly in May; it felt pretty zippy, and also very “finished” with no real evidence of any rough edges or compromises resulting from the conversion to electric drive.