Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) will launch its new Minicab-MiEV minicar-class commercial electric vehicle (EV) in Japan on 8 December, its second EV model after the recently updated Mi-EV city car.

Depending on specification the new model will carry a pre-incentive retail price of between JPY2,4m and JPY2,97m (US$31,000-$38,500), consumption tax included, or JPY1,73m ($22,400) after government incentives have been deducted.

MMC said the new variant of its Minicab van line had been developed to maximise the technologies and know-how gained from the development of the i-MiEV to deliver the superior environmental performance inherent to an EV together with the high levels of operating economy, payload capacity, drivability and reliability demanded of a commercial vehicle.

Earlier this week, MMC said it was in talks with Suzuki regarding OEM supply of a variant of this new electric van.

“MMC and Suzuki are currently working on details; however plans are for initial supply to Suzuki to begin in February 2012, building up to full-scale supply in the 2012 fiscal year,” Mitsubishi said in a statement.

“The talks towards an agreement are intended to increase economies of scale for MMC which will in turn contribute to lower production costs and increased productivity.” 

The Minicab-MiEV will be offered in Japan with a choice of two sizes of drive battery to allow the customer to choose the cruising range best suited to individual needs. The CD 10.5kWh battery version provides a cruising range of 100 km or 62 miles (JC08) on a single charge, while the CD 16.0kWh version takes this up to 150km (95 miles).

MMC said it had set prices at an “accessible level”: with the application of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s eco-car subsidy. Like the i-MiEV in Japan, the Minicab EV will be sold on a maintenance lease, credit or cash basis.

MMC started i-MiEV sales in Japan in July 2009 and has since sold some 5,000 units in Japan and exported about 17,000 units (to 31 October, 2011), including rebadged Citroen and Peugeot units supplied to PSA Peugeot Citroën.

“As a leading manufacturer of EVs, MMC is confident that as it expands its lineup of EV models it will serve as pioneers on the path toward quickly making possible a low-carbon society,” the automaker said.

The automaker said commercial vehicles are usually owned longer and cover longer cumulative mileages than family cars. The new EV consequently offers “possible advantages” over a comparable petrol-powered van in terms of total operating cost, including the price of the vehicle, because the main running cost is just that of the comparatively inexpensive electricity used to charge its battery. Additionally, it can be charged at the business or at home, eliminating the need to make separate journeys to petrol stations.

The drive battery and electric drivetrain are shared with the Mi-EV car and similarly located under the vehicle floor with the motor, inverter and other EV components under the cargo compartment. The result is cargo compartment space and payload capacity (350 kg with two occupants) which on par with the petrol Minicab CD, delivering the high levels of utility required in a commercial vehicle.

The cabin air conditioner and instrument cluster are also common with the car.

MMC said the EV van’s inherently quiet operation makes it the ideal commercial vehicle for delivery work early in the morning or late at night in residential districts while the lack of vibration also makes it well suited to transporting delicate goods.

All models are fitted as standard with a vehicle-approaching alert system which, at speeds of approximately 25 km/h or less, emits an audible warning to alert pedestrians to the approach of the vehicle.

The van comes standard with a 200V AC (15 amp) cable that fits outdoor sockets used for EV battery charging. A 100V AC (10 amp) cable and a quick charging connector are factory options.

Mitsubishi’s sales target is 4,000 units from December to the end of its fiscal year on 31 March.