Whilst the idea of an electric sports car (or simply electric fast car, witness the 100 km/h record-breaker back in 1899) is not new, not much thought have been given so far to consider electric vehicle (EV) fundamentals as sports car material...
Blending sporting heritage with EV leading expertise, Mitsubishi Motors has just taken that upside down view to create the clear removable top Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Air Concept, premiered at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show.
One step beyond being merely green, this zero on-road CO2 emission racy concept builds upon those EV fundamentals, marrying:
the powerful accelerations and high torque inherent to electric motors,
the safe driving dynamics that stem from i MiEV's lithium-ion battery pack, ideally located within its long wheelbase and the low center of gravity it therefore implies.
A joint effort between Mitsubishi Motors design studios in Okazaki (exterior), Okazaki and Cypress, California (interior) as well as Tokyo (execution), the zero CO2 emission Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Air Concept is a relative to the acclaimed and equally zero CO2 emission 2007 i MiEV Sport show car.
Longer (+ 20 cm) and taller (+ 12 cm), it trades the cheeky look of its predecessor for a more technical approach of its teardrop shape: from the clamshell effect of its deep(er) windshield + diminutive bonnet to the shaper shape of its front end - complete with an inverted Jet Fighter "grille", or the flush glazing over the B-pillar.
Details, such as the (more) robust looking three-spoke alloy wheels, the squared-off mirrors, the LED front lighting and side repeaters contribute to that look.
Appropriately for an EV, a semi-transparent embedded solar panel is used on the bonnet and "clear cutaway" roof panel, while the "printed circuit board" motif continues inside, highlighting points inside the cabin.
Whilst several variants of i MiEV Sport have been sketched internally (all the way to a wacky mini pickup !), the 2009 Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Air Concept is a more tangible proposition with its removable clear roof panel over its polyamide and polyphenylene ether body panels.
Made of semi-transparent lightweight composite, the "clear cutaway" roof panel allows open air driving whilst retaining the structural integrity of the coupe.
Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Air Concept's color & trim follows a "Japanese Technology" theme, combining the approachable image and the high-tech spirit of environmentally-friendly devices:
The blue exterior color evokes the openness of clear blue skies, while the use of a pearl finish effect gives a bluish sheen to the body highlights the car's eco-friendly image.
Inside, the mesh "ventilaio" trim uses a high-contrast color scheme of greyish blue and "grege" (an intermediate color between grey and beige). With the use of blue illumination for the instruments and interior lighting this two-tone scheme imparts an advanced and high-tech look to the cabin while at the same time producing a relaxing and reassuring atmosphere. Mitsubishi's proprietary Green Plastics are used for the carpeting, the seat back panels and side covers
Indeed, Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Air Concept offers a welcoming ambience to create a comfortable and restful space. The wrap-around cockpit design, on the other hand, is styled to alert the driver to the high performance potential of the car the moment he sits behind the wheel.
The major controls and switches are all ergonomically grouped around the shift dial - with additional controls subsumed into a single touch-panel display - making for more positive location and operation by the driver.
A sports car of a new kind, Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Air Concept also presents an unusual and very aerodynamic teardrop-shaped profile and cab forward proportions making the best use of its 2,550 mm wheelbase over an overall diminutive length of 3,650 mm.
Just as for the forthcoming production i MiEV, this generous wheelbase put the 175/50 R 17 wheels at each corner for the sake of driving dynamics and - in conjunction of the rear-midship layout - an optimum use of the available interior space for 4 passengers (2+2 seating).
It also provides an ideal location for the lithium-ion battery pack: located under the floor, the 200 kg pack allows for a very low center of gravity, for stability and balance but also for passive safety.
The powertrain components - including the motor and inverter - are arranged beneath the luggage compartment. As such - together with the aluminum rear suspension - they contribute to a good weight distribution (50% front - 50% rear).
An aluminum space frame - a combination of aluminum extrusions and aluminum die casting - is light, rigid and strong, helping to improving performance by minimizing weight (940 kg). The optimum layout of structural members, including front-side and cross members, efficiently absorbs crash energy in the event of front-end or side collision.
In a collision from the rear, the EV components located under the back seat and rear floor serve as a barrier to ensure the integrity of the passenger compartment.
By making use of i MiEV's rear-midship layout and utilizing Mitsubishi's latest RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body, Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Air Concept realizes excellent occupant protection in collisions from any direction, even when colliding with a vehicle of different height or weight.
Pointing to the direction a realistic Mitsubishi sports EV may take in the future, Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Air Concept turns EV characteristics into (baby) sports car assets, all with the eerie silence, fluency and stress-free driving of electric cars.
In particular, it uses a more powerful version of i MiEV's permanent magnet synchronous electric motor for even faster standing and passing accelerations - an EV trademark - than the standard i MiEV with 60 kW (82 ps) and 230 Nm.
Last but not least, Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Air Concept offers another more down-to-earth approach to powertrain with a single motor powering the rear wheels, exactly as the forthcoming production i MiEV and as opposed to the more conceptual solutions forecasted with the 2007 i MiEV Sport (2 in-wheel motor at the front + 1 single motor at the rear + E-4WD + E-AYC + S-AWC).
Overall length: 3,650 mm