August 7, 2008 / 4:01 PM / in 9 years

M'bishi Motors to test electric car with US firms

3 Min Read

TOKYO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T) said on Friday it would partner with U.S. utilities Southern California Edison (SCE_pe.A) and Pacific Gas and Electric Co (PCG_pa.A) to test its zero-emission electric car for use in the United States.

The two separate agreements follow Mitsubishi Motors' field tests for its small, four-seater "i MiEV" with seven utilities in Japan over the past two years. Mitsubishi Motors, one of the few major automakers with a working prototype of a mass-production electric car, plans to start selling the car in Japan next summer.

"The joint partnership (with PG&E) will yield valuable data and a greater appreciation of the practicality of an all-electric vehicle in California," Corporate General Manager Tohru Hashimoto said in a statement.

Through daily use, the two partners will gauge the viability of a pure electric car, which typically has a short cruising range due to battery power limitations. Charging time is also an issue, as the i MiEV requires more than half a day to fully charge using a regular electric socket at home.

"PG&E has been researching the benefits of electric vehicles since the nineties," said Andrew Tang, senior director at PG&E. "Partnering with automakers like Mitsubishi is vital to developing compatible infrastructures."

Southern California Edison said the collaboration with Mitsubishi Motors would complement its work on plug-in hybrids and next-generation batteries, including with Ford Motor Co (F.N).

The i MiEV, based on the gasoline "i" model, uses a lithium-ion battery developed by Mitsubishi Motors in partnership with Japanese battery maker GS Yuasa Corp (6674.T) and Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T).

Nissan Motor Co (7201.T), Japan's No.3 automaker and another major advocate of pure electric cars, last month formed a partnership with the U.S. state of Tennessee to study the infrastructure needed to support the roll-out of its yet-to-be developed electric cars due in 2011.

Nissan also has a similar deal with Portugal that would create a national recharging network, while its French partner Renault SA (RENA.PA) has tie-ups with Israel and Denmark. (Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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