An electric version of the quirky i city car is in development, and Mitsubishi UK is lobbying hard to make sure it goes on sale in Britain.

Five demonstrator models will arrive next year for evaluation by dealers and the media. One customer is already confident enough that it will be a hit that he's put down a GBP2,000 deposit.

"It happened in Finchley last week. It's pretty amazing considering the car isn't expected to go on sale until 2011 or 2012," said managing director Jim Tyrell.

The car will be called the i-MiEV, which stands for Mitsubishi in-wheel motor Electric Vehicle. With an automatic transmission, it has a top speed of 80mph and a range of 80-100 miles. At an estimated price of £15,000 it's not cheap but its appeal will be the running costs; 10,000 miles of motoring for just £50 at today's electricity prices.
"Full production of the i-MiEV is expected to start by the end of 2008 and we are lobbying hard for some of those cars to come to the UK," said Tyrell. "There's a market for electric vehicles in urban areas if they perform like a regular vehicle, as this one does. We have written to the Government to ask it to put its money where its mouth is, for example, by not charging VAT on electric vehicles. It's the sort of thing it needs to do if it's serious about putting these vehicles into places like London."

Tyrell said he believes that ultimately congestion charging in cities such as the capital will involve a toll for any vehicle with any emissions, with only fully electric vehicles going free. Such a move will only increase demand for the i-MiEV.

The standard i was launched in July, and all 300 units were sold in two and a half weeks. More are on the way, and Tyrell estimates a steady annual demand of around 1,500 units.