July 10, 2008 / 1:08 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Japan's MMC to sell electric cars next year-Nikkei

(Adds planned sales volume, share price)

TOKYO, July 10 (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T) will begin selling its electric car to individual customers in Japan from summer 2009, slightly ahead of schedule, banking on strong interest amid record-high fuel prices, the Nikkei business daily said.

The Japanese automaker, one of the front-runners in the development of electric cars, had said it would begin offering the zero-emission car, called i-MiEV, mainly to fleet customers next summer and to individuals no later than 2010.

A spokesman said the company was still studying the timing of the launch to customers, and a 2009 roll-out remained possible.

Another company official said Mitsubishi Motors plans to offer 2,000 electric cars in the first year of launch — double what it had originally planned — without providing a breakdown by customer type.

Mitsubishi Motors has said the electric car, based on the 660cc gasoline-engine “i” minivehicle, would be priced at 2.5-3 million yen ($23,420-28,100). The cars can be recharged by connecting to an ordinary household electricity socket.

Shares in Mitsubishi Motors, which last month agreed to consider a tie-up in electric vehicles with France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen (PEUP.PA), rose 2.1 percent to 191 yen in early trade, while most other auto shares were weaker.

Due to limitations of energy storage capacity in batteries, electric cars have a short cruising range and are considered most suited for short-distance driving.

Mitsubishi Motors has a joint venture with Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T) and GS Yuasa Corp (6674.T) to produce lithium-ion batteries to be used in the electric vehicles starting next year.

Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and Renault SA (RENA.PA) are also aggressively promoting the possibility of electric cars, although they have not shown a prototype yet. On Wednesday, the Franco-Japanese alliance signed a deal with Portugal to promote electric cars, following similar agreements with Israel and Denmark. [ID:nL09347208]

Nissan is looking to commercialise electric cars first in Japan and the United States in 2010. ($1=106.76 Yen) (Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Michael Watson)

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