Itsuo Inouye  /  AP
Mitsubishi on Wednesday unveiled this electric vehicle, based on its Colt model sold in Japan.
updated 5/11/2005 10:29:46 AM ET 2005-05-11T14:29:46

Scandal-plagued Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said Wednesday it will start selling electric cars in Japan in 2010 — an attempt to showcase its technological prowess and fix its battered brand image.

The Tokyo-based automaker, struggling to regain customer trust after repeated cover-ups of auto defects, showed off a mini test vehicle equipped with motors embedded in the rear wheels that run on a lithium-ion batteries.

“For a company with small sales like ours, this is a way we can assert a meaningful presence,” Tetsuro Aikawa, who oversees product development and environmental research, told reporters at the company’s headquarters.

93 miles on a charge
Aikawa said the planned mini-electric car, which will be available for test fleets next year, has a cruising range of 90 miles on a single charge and can be recharged in a regular home. The top speed is around 90 miles an hour.

Toru Yamanaka  /  AFP - Getty Images
Mitsubishi executive Tetsuro Aikawa uses a cutaway display to show how the company's electric vehicle motors in the wheel are powered by lithium-ion batteries on the bottom of the car's body.
Mitsubishi is targeting housewives who drive to pick up children from school, go grocery shopping and won’t need to travel long distances, Aikawa said, adding that they are expected to enjoy owning a car that never needs to fill up at a gas station.

Officials said the electric car will cost slightly more than a comparable gas-engine vehicle but they hope to keep prices down through Japanese government aid available for buyers of environmentally friendly cars. Although the price isn’t decided, it may sell for under $19,000, according to Mitsubishi Motors.

Overseas sales uncertain
The company is undecided on overseas sales for the car.

Electric vehicles have been available in small numbers around the world, but they have been too expensive to catch on in big numbers. The fact that they need recharging has been another obstacle with drivers.

Most other automakers have focused on combining electric power with a gasoline engine in what's known has a hybrid system.

Automakers are also working on replacing the internal combustion system with fuel cells, but obstacles include costs and technical issues.

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