Since before the production of the Chevrolet Volt, we have been hearing of more electric vehicles to be launched, including a Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and before that, the lowest-price, highest- MPGe EV yet is due in U.S. dealerships this November.

The "i" is what Mitsubishi is calling the “wide body” version of its EV, and just 2,000 will be made available of the 2012 Japanese minicar that in its homeland comes in a few electric and petrol iterations and is known as the MiEV.

The cautious launch is to prep the ground for more EVs and PHEVs. Next after the i will be the PX-MiEV compact SUV plug-in hybrid electric vehicle first seen as a concept in 2009, and due in a couple more years.

Mitsubishi i.

As for the pending i model, yesterday Mitsubishi began amping up the buzz by announcing EPA numbers for the car due to cost $27,995 before incentives, and a even showcased a new solar charging station at its headquarters in Cypress, Calif.

The all-electric i city car earned 126 MPGe in city driving, and 99 MPGe on the highway (112 MPGe combined).

Packing a Volt-sized 16-kWh battery, and capable of 81 mph top speed, the rear-wheel-drive commuter will weigh a few hundred pounds more than the approximately 2,400-pound Japanese version. Exact weight has not yet been announced.

A city and suburban car mostly, but freeway capable.

As it is, this will be several hundred pounds lighter than the larger bodied Nissan LEAF, which Mitsubishi does not consider a head-to head competitor.

To test its range, the i was put through the “LA4” driving cycle which simulates aggressive driving and operating the vehicle in higher ambient temperatures with the air conditioning on. The cycle covers approximately 7.5 miles and includes numerous brief stops to mimic in-town driving as well as starts and stops for traffic signals.

A conservative estimate Mitsubishi is promising is “real world” range of 62 miles (100 km), and under the EPA’s LA4 cycle, the car is actually rated at 98 miles.

The company said it worked to improve potential travel distance, and attributes the 98 mile range to software upgrades and a revamped regenerative braking system, which delivers a 20-percent efficiency boost.

They look smaller, but those are said to be 15-inch wheels.

“We feel that with the combination of capability, affordability, and high level of efficiency offered by the 2012 Mitsubishi i will be prove very appealing to consumers considering EV transportation”, said Yoichi Yokozawa, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America.

Although tiny, and considered a “second or third vehicle,” for most Americans, factoring in a $7,500 federal credit, it will cost $20,495, and boasts a long list of standard amenities.

Included are energy-efficient electric air conditioning with micron filter, speed-sensitive Electric Power Steering (EPS), driver seat heater and LED rear combination tail lamps.

Coming to dealers November.

Advanced safety features include dual-stage supplemental front air bags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact supplemental air bags for front and rear-seat outboard passengers.

Does this sound like a fair bit of safety? It was considered necessary for this small car testing the waters in the demanding North American market – and there are more safety features besides, including Active Stability Control (ASC) with Traction Control Logic (TCL), 4-wheel Anti-Lock Braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), high voltage cut-off system and an Approaching Vehicle Audible System (AVAS).

All this safety technology will come standard on every Mitsubishi i.

Solar charger

Keeping its electric cars fully charged is a new Eaton solar-powered charger at the HQ of Mitsubishi Electric & Electronics USA, Inc. (Mitsubishi Electric) and Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA).

The charging station is powered by 96, 175-watt photovoltaic modules from Mitsubishi Electric. It will help support CHAdeMO compatible electric vehicles and is able to charge up to four vehicles at once.

Charging station, Cypress, Calif.

The station actually features three types of chargers with different voltages: standard level 1 voltage will deliver a 100-percent charge in 22 hours for the Mitsubishi i; level 2 which can charge the vehicle in six hours; and 480-volt level 3 CHAdeMO Quick Charge, which can charge to 80 percent battery capacity in 25 minutes.

This level 3 charger is the first of its kind CHAdeMO Quick Charger certified for U.S. sale and public utility.

DC quick charger. Looks just like a gasoline pump.

“This project will build awareness of solar power’s versatility and efficiency,” said Katsuya Takamiya, president and chief executive officer, Mitsubishi Electric & Electronics USA. “As electric vehicles’ popularity grows, we expect to see more charging stations at large employers, automobile dealerships, shopping centers and schools, where cars can charge while people work, shop or study.”

Pending PHEV

According to Mitsubishi’s Moe Durand, manager, product PR, very little is being announced about a potential competitor to the Chevrolet Voltec platform, except Mitsubishi says it is a “North Star,” meaning it is the end goal.

While the i EV is to be limited quantity, with future increases played by ear, the PX-MiEV plug-in hybrid will be more of an everyday car.

Durand said Mitsubishi expects to ramp up from a launch some time in the next two years to significant quantities, but otherwise said the vehicle will have a gas-electric powertrain and is “very much under development.”

PX-MiEV concept.

If it is anything like the concept vehicle shown at the Tokyo Auto Show in October 2009, it ought to be interesting. That vehicle was able to function as either a series or parallel hybrid, and also could operate in front or four-wheel-drive.

The PX-MiEV concept had one electric motor for the front wheels, another for the back and an estimated 30 miles of all-electric range.

It was powered also by a 1.6-liter, 114-horsepower, four-cylinder gasoline engine able to work either as a generator at low speeds or a source of supplemental propulsion at higher speeds.

Perhaps by the time the PX-MiEV is launched, Chevrolet will have its Voltec MP5 or another competitive vehicle in production too?

Mitsubishi , Mitsubishi