Watch CBSN Live

Peugeot iOn EV for Europe is Mitsubishi in Disguise; a U.S. Decision is Imminent

Here's the first clue: the name. Peugeot's new electric car is called the iOn. Does the weird capitalization recall another battery vehicle -- like Mitsubishi's i-MiEV, for instance?

The resemblance is not coincidental. With only minor exterior changes, the Peugeot iOn is the i-MiEV. And its vital statistics are, of course, similar, too. It offers 47 kilowatts of electric power, which translates to 63 horsepower, and can travel about 80 miles between charges.

The iOn is the first fruit of a deepening collaboration, announced September 4, between PSA Peugeot Citroën and Mitsubishi Motors. The iOn will be complemented with a Citroën version, which may mean little more than changing the badging. Mitsubishi says production will begin in October of next year, and a commercial launch in the European market by the end of 2010.

Peugeot Citroën's other green vehicles are hybrid diesels to be launched in 2011, including the Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4 and the Citroën DSS HYbrid4. A plug-in hybrid is due in 2012.

The i-MiEV itself was launched in Japan last June, and it will be sold globally in right-hand drive markets beginning later this year. A left-drive version will rollout "in fiscal year 2010."

According to Barry Toepke, a Mitsubishi spokesman, the company is also exploring the possibility of selling the i-MiEv in the U.S. and will make a decision within the next 60 to 90 days. Mitsubishi says the company is targeting 30,000 annual i-MiEV sales.

The i-MiEV is also slated for a demonstration program in Iceland. The island nation is ideally suited for electric cars, because its 840-mile ring road could at least theoretically serve the population of 304,000 people with just 14 or 15 fast-charging stations. And since 75 percent of the population lives within 37 miles of capital city Reykjavik the major charging network could be concentrated there. The stations could be installed by Better Place, which has reportedly had talks with Mitsubishi. Julie Mullins, a spokesperson for Better Place, said, "No plans for Iceland at this time," but perhaps the last part of that turns it into a qualified answer.

According to Teitur Torkelsson, director of the Driving Sustainability '09 conference (which gets underway next week in Reykjavik), the Mitsubishi program is still on, with the first cars arriving later in the fall. "We are also expecting some announcements from the government on tax breaks for EVs," he said. Such tax advantages could only add to the excellent economics of EVs in Iceland, where the current road mix includes a surprising number of larger SUVs.

Torkelsson told me last year that the program is likely to start with a few dozen Japanese-spec right-hand-drive cars, and then expand significantly in 2010. Icelanders, he told me, "love their clean energy, their new technology and are early adopters."

View CBS News In