Re-Imagined: Mitsubishi i-MiEV Rendered As a Tiny Nissan EV


Will we ever see a return of the i-MiEV?

The original Mitsubishi i-MiEV entered the Japanese market in the summer of 2009. While initially only sold to fleets, sales expanded one year later to the general public. This early release makes the i-MiEV one of the first “large” production, affordable Electric Vehicle’s sold to consumers.

The car landed in the United States at the end of 2011, roughly a year after the launch of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. Sales in the US weren’t very strong. The i-MiEV’s best sales year in the US was 2013 with just over 1,000 units sold.

While the i-MiEV never caught on here, it had a promising start in Japan. In its home country, the vehicle was categorized as a Kei-car and initially received tax benefits from the Japanese government. Across the vehicle’s life, there were two other variants released that never made it stateside: the Minicab-MiEV and Minicab-MiEV Truck.

i-MiEV Family

By 2017 over 18,000 had been sold in Japan, but most of those sales were in the first 2.5 years. As larger plug-ins made it to market with longer EV ranges, interest began to wane. Once the Japanese government raised taxes on the small Kei-car vehicle category, sales tanked further.

In its final years, the i-MiEV lineup was selling nearly as poorly in Japan as in the US. By early 2017, Mitsubishi quietly put the car to rest with little fanfare.

Is there still a market for this type of vehicle?

Currently, there is no plan for an update to carry on the i-MiEV name. However, as a former Spark EV owner, I can attest that small, city-friendly electric vehicles have a place in the global market.

The Renault Zoe, while slightly larger, has been very successful in Europe. More importantly, China has embraced small, affordable urban electric vehicles. Global automakers are scrambling to gain market share in the country, and a significant portion of those vehicles will need to be electric thanks to strong New Energy Vehicle (NEV) requirements.

So this rendering of an i-MiEV re-imagined as an electric Nissan caught our attention. Styling is updated and far more attractive than the original i-MiEV. The size is perfectly suited for the urban environments of China’s major cities.

Obviously with small vehicle sales continuing to fall here in the US, even a spiritual follow up seems unlikely. But even if the i-MiEV never returns to our shores, such a vehicle could do very well in Europe and China.

Render – Automedia

Categories: Mitsubishi, Nissan

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39 Comments on "Re-Imagined: Mitsubishi i-MiEV Rendered As a Tiny Nissan EV"

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While I could not care less about the iMiev, I have seen enough driving around, mostly with a Peugeot badge, that I am happy it exists.

Strangely most of them are owned by cities, universities, or other (semi) municipal branches. I don’t know why they don’t take ZOEs, but maybe they get good deals on those iMievs/iOns.

The price difference between a zoe and an i-miev (or ion or C-0, it’s the same car) is close to a factor 2 : 15k€ for a Peugeot Ion vs 32k€ for a Zoe, battery included (in France, probably similar in other european countries ?). For a job which doesn’t require more than 100km range, an i-miev is sufficient and munch cheaper.
It should be the same logic for commuters who have 2 cars per house, but unfortunately smalls cars are not appreciated by customers, even in Europe.

You are right! I didn’t include the battery leasing for the ZOE. So not 2:1 in Germany, but 3:2, for the lower range ZOE.

Yes the iOn did relatively well in Europe! At least, compared to the US. At those prices and with updated styling, a second gen could do even better.

People want to buy very affordable EV models with sufficient range.

Maybe they could re-imagine it with three-figure range. And please, not Nissan; they’d put in another air-cooled battery pack.

Don’t you mean Nissan airtight battery pack? 😉 The i-MiEV battery is air conditioned, and that plus several other smarter design choices means that my MiEV with 87k miles is still putting out the full advertised 62 miles of city range.

It’s possible then just to customize i miev on used market and upgrade the battery and power system

Is there anyone out there who actually done that?

It doesn’t seem like a practical proposition now on a 5 year old i-MiEV, but it might in another 10 or 15 years. I witnessed a battery upgrade in a factory stock 1999 Ford Ranger EV (yes, there actually was such a thing,) where the original NiMH cells couldn’t be revived and LiFePO4 cells were substituted. The owner ended up with a 100+ range range per charge electric pickup truck.

When you think about it, “re-celling” an old EV is a far easier project than what so many have done for so many years: converting a gasoline car to electric power. The only real dilemma the Ranger EV owner encountered was getting a 15 year old car computer to recognize that the reloaded pack was now different in voltage and amperage than was was loaded in there originally. But a custom circuit solved that problem.

I don’t think any amount of money and time spent on trying to upgrade that car is going to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

If you want an EV with a proper battery cooling system, then just buy one that comes with it. Trying to design, build and install a custom-built (or Jerry-rigged) battery cooling system would likely cost more than just buying a car that comes with it. Besides, how are you going to fit that into a battery pack that wasn’t designed with space for it?

Huh? The i-MiEV actually has active cooling (though not liquid), and its packs do much better than Nissan’s. The system is similar to VW’s.

The i-MiEV uses prismatic cells with a rather low energy density, so there’s considerable room to up the Ah rating. I did some math a while back that 18650 cells fitted inside boxes the same size as the current prismatics could boost the battery from 50 Ah to 81 Ah without any modification to the battery case or BMS boards. With some modifications, the range could easily be doubled.

The packs (all 2014, 2016, and 2017 models, as well as 2012 models with either cold weather, quick charge, or premium packages) are air-cooled and air-heated, using a duct from the cabin HVAC system. The high-voltage electronics and electric motor are liquid cooled.

I have over 64,000 miles on my Miev, with nothing but tire changes for maintenance. As a commuter car, the 62 mile range and a charge plug at work, has allowed me to commute at 1/4 the cost of a gas car. While people often laugh at my little ride, I’m happy to laugh too…all the way to the bank.

I felt the same way about my Spark EV. Excellent commuter.

It was incredibly efficient just like the I-MiEV was. I only needed to charge once a week. I lived in a more centrally located apartment complex and was only a few miles from work, family and our typical hangout spots. The car made perfect sense.

Of course the best feature of cars this size: super easy to parallel park.

But the Spark EV actually did have a battery cooling system, unlike the i-MiEV.

Pushi, how can you be so totally wrong twice in one thread? The i-MiEV has an air conditioned battery pack, unlike Nissan’s offerings. Its superior thermal management means that our packs are aging very well.

I personally wanted to buy a Mitsubishi i-miev in that the i-miev had tons of head room along with leg room and a bench seat. The i-miev also didn’t have a million and one computer screens and buttons on it which was very nice.

I honestly can remember that the i-miev had more room in it then a lot of other cars I had looked at for the fun of it.

I things that killed buying i-miev for me were they stopped making the car and the 62 mile range made it worthless for my commute or the possibility of changing jobs.

What I don’t understand is I did do research several times and batteries that could have doubled the existing i-miev’s range existed to raise the i-miev 120 miles back in 2016.

That’s all true. Headroom is outstanding. The car is very smart and has a lot of complexities in its programming, but the user interface couldn’t have been simpler (speed, power, charge, and range). I have two of them and don’t plan on letting go for quite a while.

They are still selling these MiEVs. It took me awhile to find one, but I just bought one in Ohio, USA and had it shipped to California. There are more in Canada (2018 model) Do you know of a battery upgrade aftermarket product for this car?

I don’t get why people laugh at the iMiev. It is a perfect Kei-class commuter or urban errand runner.

They laugh because it perfectly fits their own description of an electric vehicle. Their loss..

The Mitsubishi i-miev is one of my favorite cars to photo edit it doing extreme stuff due to it being very unexpected. I would love to see one show up in a action movie and show it do things that the big SUV or sports cars do in the action movies.

It is in “Ready, Player One”.

The North American i MiEV has a wider track and is longer, so it does not fit in the Japanese class of Kei or light car, if it were in Japan. I am in Japan right now and I went to the Mitsubishi dealership and asked many questions about the differences between the Japan’s Kei car version and the North American version. I own the North American version in California and was thinking of renting the Japanese version here in Japan.

Small cars make the most sense for commuting, but are not as profitable as large vehicles, and most in our “super-size me” world want the biggest of everything they can get, which pretty much explains our situation.

It looks like a Bolt with odd proportions…

You’d be surprised how similar the Bolt and i-MiEV are regarding dimensions. The Bolt is maybe a foot longer and about 6″ wider, but both have excellent interior space and great visibility.

The i-MiEV totally doesn’t deserve being called a sub-compact when the Bolt is considered a crossover. They are almost identical size-wise.

That looks like a Chevy Spark EV

If it got a significantly larger battery pack (i MiEV only has 16kWh) and if it has lower drag, and if all four tires were the same size / width – then it would have a good chance. It has good space for tall folks, and a large hatch makes it quite practical.

Why? The Smart ED does sell well and it has just 17kWh while being less efficient. The only thing that is a bit of a let down with the iMiEV is its look. They should just have given it worse aero and make it look good. That would have been more important.

Function over form. I wouldn’t change a thing about the i-MiEV’s looks. I’ve never had an easier time parking a car than trying to cram my i-MiEV in a tight parking space.

There is indeed an appetite for it. In Japan at least, it’s still the only EV with kei-car perks. For the rest of us, we have seen EVs move at a marvellous pace, but so far prices have stopped falling to compensate more higher end materials. Nissan was right to carve itself a middle-market EV as everyone went off chasing Tesla and inexperienced consumer demand. But no one is digging under.

Mitsubishi should really offer a $24,000 msrp EV with everage 90 mile range, 6.6kW and DC charging. It’s most definitely possible. If we had that 4 years ago when the i-MiEV was getting very stale, it would’ve been a game changer for the entire market, let alone the entry-level market- which has what, the eUP! and ForTwo ED? lame..

If they did that, and an i-MiEV van ala the Ford Fiesta vans, it would be unreal in a good sense, and a most definitely real non-preowned entry to EVs for many more buyers.

New Nissan styling is so boring it verges on ugly. The i-MiEV and original Leaf are much better looking cars. I drive a 2012 i-MiEV, great car. All I would change is up the pack to 24kWh, heat pump heater and heated passenger seat.

“In its final years, the i-MiEV lineup was selling nearly as poorly in Japan as in the US.”

And deservedly so, since the car was a holdover from the years in which EVs were “punishment cars”, ones driven only by those willing to sacrifice comfort, convenience, and style on the altar of dedication to the environmentalist cause.

Fortunately, Tesla has blown away the concept that EVs have to be ugly punishment cars. Why in the world would any auto maker want to continue that tradition in 2018?

Besides, “i-MiEV” is an awkward and unattractive name, almost as ugly as the car was. Surely Mitsu or Nissan can come up with a better name, and better styling, for an EV subcompact or microcar.

i-MiEV is as annoying to spell as CHAdeMO. But at least it is not as difficult to remember as MINI COOPER S E COUNTRYMAN ALL4. 🙂

I am SO glad to see an intelligent discussion on the i-MiEV here, with so many actual i-MiEV owners chiming in with their personal experiences. My 2012, purchased used in late 2015 ($7K,) has allowed me to drive fossil fuel-free for about 15K miles since I’ve had it. Cost of my electric “fuel” is also far cheaper than gasoline. It is the most practical and reliable vehicle I’ve owned in my 40+ years of driving. The only time I’ve taken it in for dealer service has been for two factory recalls – a faulty airbag sensor and then a Takata airbag swap – and I also took it to a private mechanic to address squeaky brakes. Whoever worked on those previously, apparently, didn’t know what they were doing. So, a couple hundred dollars for properly turned rotors, new pads and fluid/lubricant flushed/replaced. That’s it. The car spent the first two years of it’s leased life in snowy/wet Illinois before I found it online at a southern California lot. It now lives happily with me in dry/hot Arizona. I’ll say hear again what others have already said, regarding how the batteries are cooled when it’s hot outside . . . that… Read more »

Very well stated, Benjamin.

I would buy! Small cars are incredibly useful and practical around the small cities and cramped parking spaces where I live.