Normal, a town in the US state of Illinois, is anything but, according to Mitsubishi. Introducing its new Mitsubishi i, the Japanese carmaker will base its new EVTown, a green technology hub, in this corner of the north-central USA as part of a new project to roll out the ‘most likeable car on the planet’. It’s a vehicle that is 100% electric, compact and backed by 30 super-fast quick charge stations so drivers are not left in the eco lurch.
But this is not just about a new green and the necessary infrastructure to support it. Mitsubishi is turning Normal into an eco-driving town it hopes will become the new average when it comes to keeping our roads green. Indeed, Normal is serving as a pilot for a project that aims to consider the community side of energy efficient vehicles of the future. This is not just Mitsubishi but business representatives, people from government and just plain old ordinary members of Normal. It’s an approach that believes if you get a community behind a green car project, that same community can benefit from the drastic drop in emissions as a result.
The Mitsubishi i use a magnet motor that generates 49kW of power which uses the inertia caused by the release of the accelerator to turn itself into a generator which instantaneously recharges the traction battery that comes as standard. The gearshift features three driving modes – D for urban driving to be efficient, B which leads to greater regenerative braking when driving downhill and C for smooth cruising on the open road. The concept is therefore simple, in energy terms. Put simply the motor switches to a generator when appropriate to harness all that lost energy represented by increased emissions in normal cars. This one traps it and uses this energy again and again.
Standard charging of the battery is done at home when the car is out of use, taking 7 hours, or at the designated charging stations allowing an 80% charge in half an hour. There are currently more than 200 such sites in the UK allowing at least one vehicle to charge up, and on site has capacity for up to 100 cars. As ever the concept relies on a power network that means owning one of these vehicles makes sense. That is what Mitsubishi is trying to show in a campaign to demonstrate the car and spread awareness of what it can do.
As part of this campaign, the Japanese automaker is offering people in the US the chance to test drive the Mitsubishi I in October and November. This started in Portland, Oregon in the Pacific Northwest on October at the city’s Fashion Week followed by the next port of call in nearby Seattle. Further shows will be held in Washington; and in Carmel, Monterey, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Los Angeles and San Diego, California among other locations.
In a way it’s a test. For Mitsubishi the aim is to live up to the promise it has made to everyone that comes into contact with its new eco vehicle. The test is whether the Mitsubishi I is indeed the ‘most likeable car on the planet’.