IMAGE: MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CAR
Katsumi Kasahara  /  AP
Mitsubishi Managing Director Tetsuro Aikawa poses with the company's prototype electric car at its headquarters in Tokyo on Wednesday,.
updated 10/11/2006 5:05:23 PM ET 2006-10-11T21:05:23

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said on Wednesday it would work with several Japanese utilities to study the feasibility of commercializing electric vehicles -- a task it wants to achieve by the end of the decade.

The Tokyo-based automaker said it has built its third electric vehicle prototype, supplying the cars to Tokyo Electric Power Co., Chugoku Electric Power Co. and others for the project.

The new car, called i MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle), is equipped with a single motor, unlike the Colt and Lancer Evolution electric cars, which use in-wheel motors.

After being dismissed as impractical due to their short driving range and long hours needed for recharging, electric vehicles have returned to the drawing board thanks largely to the development of advanced, lightweight lithium ion batteries.

Japan’s Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru cars, is also working with TEPCO to develop cheaper and more efficient electric cars.

A Mitsubishi Motors spokesman said 2010 was one target for offering marketable electric vehicles by stretching their driving range to 155 miles from up to 100 miles now. But he stressed that the need for special infrastructure and higher recharging speeds meant auto makers were powerless to achieve this on their own.

If such issues are resolved, electric vehicles could be a more attractive alternative to fuel-cell vehicles, which require massive investment for hydrogen fuelling stations, among other hurdles.

Other utilities due to join the study are Kyushu Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co.

TEPCO, Japan’s biggest electricity provider, said in a separate statement it plans to begin switching over about 3,000 of its in-house small cars to electric vehicles from the business year starting next April. 

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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