Mitsubishi Motors Corp., which is preparing to launch one of the world's first commercial electric cars, said on Oct. 6 it was also working on plug-in hybrids. "We are advancing in development of plug-in hybrids," company president Osamu Masuko told a news conference.
He said Mitsubishi Motors' know-how in electric cars would be a "tremendous advantage" for Japan's fourth largest automaker as it looks to challenge rivals such as Toyota Motor Corp. in hybrid vehicles.
Mitsubishi Motors next year plans to start selling in Japan its i MiEV, which runs entirely on electricity. It will be the world's first commercial electric car along with the Stella of Subaru, a unit of Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries.
Japanese automakers have made strides with hybrid cars -- which are powered both by petrol and electricity -- at a time of high oil prices and growing concern about emissions blamed for global warming. A plug-in hybrid would let motorists drive the car for longer distances by allowing them to plug in for a recharge.
Toyota has already announced it will produce a small fleet of plug-in hybrids by 2010, while Nissan Motor Co. is mulling entering the field.
Unlike hybrids and plug-in hybrids, purely electric cars are seen as primarily suitable for short-distance driving in cities. The dream of an electric car has been around since the time of Thomas Edison, but it has been held back by the high costs and limited lives of batteries. "In order to ensure that electric vehicles take off in a very big way, we must ensure there is a proper infrastructure to support these vehicles... and financial support from the government," Masuko said.
Company spokesman Kazuhiro Yamane declined to say how far research has advanced on plug-in hybrids.
Mitsubishi Motors has had the most troubled finances among Japanese automakers.It suffered four straight annual net losses before returning to the black in the year to March 2007 after recovering from scandals over covering up defects.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008