Test Drive of the week: Smart Fortwo

The car is a small, compact two-seater. It is easy to get into and feels spacious inside.
The interior is not really basic; it feels slightly luxurious. The upholstery was a nice patterned grey colour and the dashboard and side doors were also shades of grey.

The dashboard is very clean and easy to read. The GPS seems quite sophisticated and is inlaid, like a TV set.

It starts up just like a normal car. There are only three speeds: neutral, drive and reverse–very simple. You don’t have to press very hard to accelerate. The car will go from 0 to 30mph in 6.5 seconds, and has an electronically limited top speed of 60 mph. Of course, there is no sound when driving since it is electric.

It drives easily and responsively. We drove on a test track with lots of winding roads and a traffic-free straight away and it was a peppy, but not really speedy, ride.

It has a lithium battery which is included in the cost price and should last 8 to 10 years. It also has ESP, ABS brakes two airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners, and also features a NCAP tested tridion safety cell. It is air-conditioned which is a nice, although not that necessary, plus. The 30kW electric motor is built by Zytek Automotive, a UK technology company.

As the first step of its electric drive program, smart has been running 100 demonstration vehicles in the United Kingdom since 2007. The series production of the smart fortwo electric drive has now started with 1,000 vehicles, which will be run in both Europe- starting by the end of 2009- and the United States- starting in the second half of 2010 in several cities. The series production in large numbers will start for model year 2012 vehicles, which can be bought in all smart centers.

The smart fortwo electric drive will be equipped with a 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery powering a 30 kW motor positioned over the rear drive wheels. The battery can be charged with either 100V or 220V systems and will require between 3.5 and 8 hours of charging time, depending on the voltage used and the starting state of the battery charge. An 85 mile range is anticipated.

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What the Greentech Can Do for Electric Cars

Cheaper, longer-lasting, safer and smaller — those are the kinds of rechargeable batteries that could become available for electric cars if some of the research projects funded under the Department of Energy’s latest round of grants for high-risk, early-stage energy technologies deliver on their moonshot ambitions.

Of the more than $106 million in grants announced this week under the Energy Department’s ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) program, nearly a third — some $34.6 million — has been allocated to 10 projects developing energy storage tech for plug-in vehicles. In addition, 13 projects working on electrofuels (converting hydrogen and carbon dioxide into motor fuel, for example), have garnered more than $41.2 million.

In the group of energy storage projects, a 6-year-old company called ReVolt Technology (a spin-off of one of the research institute SINTEF, Norway) won the largest award — just over $5 million — to work on zinc-air flow batteries that would enable plug-in vehicles to drive longer distances on a single charge. Sion Power Corp, founded in 1994 as a spin-off from Brookhaven National Lab, follows close behind with a $5 million grant to develop a lithium-sulfur battery that in theory could power an electric vehicle for more than 300 miles between charges.

Created in 2007, but left unfunded until the passage of last year’s Recovery Act, ARPA-E has $400 million to award over two years, and winning teams are required to share at least 10 percent of the project costs. Since the program is meant to support work on tech that other investors consider too risky, each of the awards represents something of a gamble.

Massachusetts-based battery maker A123Systems, which went public in September and scored a $249 million DOE grant last summer, has gotten in on two of the latest ARPA-E bets, as a partner on projects led by Applied Materials and MIT. Awarded grants of more than $4 million each, those projects will focus on developing a low-cost manufacturing process for lithium-ion batteries, and a new type of semi-solid rechargeable flow battery.

Other winners in this latest round of grants include startup Planar Energy (about $4 million), PolyPlus Technologies (nearly $5 million), MIT spin-off Pellion Technologies ($3.2 million), Recapping Inc. ($1 million) based in Menlo Park, Calif., and Missouri University of Science & Technology (nearly $1 million), working on a lithium-air battery.

While 10 projects focused on energy storage tech for transportation in this latest round, there’s only one automaker in the mix: Honda, which is partnering research into all-electron batteries (moving electrons rather than ions) led by Stanford University.

In the bigger picture, if even one of these research projects pans out it could disrupt the auto industry as we know it. That’s a big “if” however, and this research remains at an early enough stage that we likely won’t see the impact of it for years to come. As as CalCars.org founder Felix Kramer has put it to us, ARPA-E is “explicitly for long-term home runs,” rather than near-term solutions.

For the full list of awards and project descriptions, click here

Hitachi, Airbiquity team up to develop telematics for electric vehicles

Hitachi Automotive Systems, Ltd. and Airbiquity Inc. have formed a new partnership with the intention of providing telematics systems for electric cars. Airbiquity have a lot of experience in this area – they are the company that provide a lot of the communications infrastructure for the OnStar and Sync systems used by Ford and General Motors.  Hitachi will now be developing additional applications and services to be used in electric cars that have the Airbiquity systems.  At the moment this technology focuses on helping drivers to manage the charging requirements of the vehicle and remotely monitoring the charge status.  It will be interesting to see what other applications this partnership comes up with and which automakers they will be working with.

With the Hitachi Automotive Systems, and the Airbiquity-created platform forming a central hub in the smart-grid network, the partnership paves the way for creating gateway infrastructures that can be linked with smart-grid systems. This will increase the footprint of both companies in the field of global connected vehicle services, and help automotive manufacturers worldwide quickly implement EV solutions, creating efficiencies and optimizing the costs of their service operations.

“As both social awareness of traffic and transportation efficiency and the importance of contributing to the protection of the environment rise, Hitachi Automotive Systems continues to focus on providing connected vehicle service providers with intelligent, advanced solutions,” said Masamori Kashiyama, General Manager of the Next-Generation Telematics Center of Hitachi Automotive Systems’ CIS Division. “Combining these with Airbiquity’s specialized technology and extensive operational experience in the area of vehicle connectivity will make it possible for vehicle manufacturers to operate and maintain their services with more speed and efficiency than if they were operating on their own.”

But, who is Airbiquity?

Airbiquity is the global leader in the design,operation and management of connectivity infrastructure. With 13 million vehicles on the road today, the company’s expertise and experience enables intelligent transportation services for category leaders in the automotive and mobile resource management industries. some of the features of this industry are :

  • Electric vehicles: eco-routing, charging stations, energy consumption, integration with automaker back-office systems
  • Vehicle health reports: optimize vehicle operation with proactive vehicle maintenance notifications
  • Fuel consumption: tracking and reporting with real-time traffic and route planning improve fuel consumption
  • Driver behavior: record driver behavior and its impact on performance with recommendations to improve vehicle operation and fuel use
  • Vehicle performance characteristics: idle time, acceleration/braking profile, pollution emissions monitoring
  • Recommendations for driver and vehicle changes to improve fuel consumption

To learn more about Airbiquity, visit www.airbiquity.com.

the new toy of the day: Electric Air Vehicle

 It’s an airplane concept conjured up by the mind of aerospace engineer Mark Moore. The unusual looking, vertical take-off and landing tailsitter is only an idea, but you’d never know that from the attention the Puffin has gotten on the Internet.

Moore came up with the design for the electric powered, 12-foot (3.7 m) long, 14.5-foot (4.4 m) wingspan personal air vehicle as part of the coursework for his doctoral degree. Then Langley’s creativity and innovation and revolutionary technical challenges funds paid for much of the research. How the Puffin rocketed from esoteric erudition to web sensation is a classic case study in the power of the viral nature of the web.

First it appeared on the Scientific American website from the original interview on electric aircraft propulsion. There Moore was quoted as saying the team named the design the Puffin because, “If you’ve ever seen a puffin on the ground, it looks very awkward, with wings too small to fly, and that’s exactly what our vehicle looks like,” Moore says. “But it’s also apparently called the most environmentally friendly bird, because it hides its poop. So the vehicle is environmentally friendly because it essentially has no emissions. Also, puffins tend to live in solitude, only ever coming together on land to mate, and ours is a one-person vehicle.”

The pictures and video of the Puffin helped attract media attention too. It’s not everyday that you see a design that’s part plane, part helicopter that stands upright on the ground. Its tail splits into four “legs” that serve as landing gear. It lifts off like a helicopter, hovers and then leans forward to fly horizontally with the pilot lying down like in a hang-glider.

Puffin would be a hybrid of helicopter and small aircraft. Like a helicopter it would stand upright on the ground. Its tail consists of 4 legs that act as landing gear. It lifts off like a helicopter. When it hovers and leans forward to fly horizontally it gives the appearance of a hang-glider. Next step of the NIA will be to fly a remote control one-third size model. This experiment will enable them to validate theorems made in academic studies, with the particular emphasis on exploring the transition from hover to forward flight.

I think this is amazing for all people who lives in big big cities!


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Subaru R1E

The Subaru R1e is a battery-electric microcar undergoing development and testing.The car was jointly developed with Tokyo Electric Power, the giant Japanese utility company. Currently 10 prototypes have been built and are undergoing testing by Tokyo Electric Power, which plans to eventually operate 3,000 of the vehicles starting in 2008. The vehicle has a range of 50 miles (80 km) and a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h).

The prototype is a two-door, two seat vehicle based upon the Subaru R1 gasoline vehicle. This vehicle has received intense interest from electric vehicle fans owing to its modern battery technology, appropriate size, and potential performance attributes. It also has the same grille as the 1st generation Subaru Tribeca.

The car uses a lithium-ion battery which was developed in cooperation with NEC and can be recharged to 80% capacity in eight minutes using a special rapid charger, or to 100% charge in eight hours on a standard 100 V plug. Battery life is at least 10 years or 144,000-plus miles (240,000 km). Tokyo Electric Power company plans on producing 150 fast-charge stations.

Some Features:

  • Laminated lithium-ion batteries
  • 240 VAC conductive charging
  • It is a two-seater

Another electric prototype car, the G4e, is a follow-up to the R1e with an improved battery, range, and bolder styling.

Here’s why I want us to target Subaru:

They have proven themselves in a niche market here in the U.S. and the EV market is still perceived as only niche by auto makers. Subaru only sells five cars in the U.S. and have positioned themselves well as doing something no one else does and being the exclusive go-to company when consumers know what they want, e.g. all-wheel drive standard on every vehicle.

Subaru has been field testing a fleet of R1e battery electric cars for some time now in Japan and had previously indicated that they want to have an electric car in production by 2010. It now looks like 2009 is the time frame for the start of production, at least in limited quantities. Following an initial run of about 100 units the first year, Subaru wants to ramp up production to help drive down battery costs. Subaru is targeting a price of $17,500 by 2012-13. Within a few years after that the company wants EVs to be available for the equivalent of about $13,000.


Smart ED

There will be 100 smart ed’s produced for the initial phase of e-mobility Berlin and the cars will integrate with an intelligent RWE charging network made upof the 500 charging stations. The smart ed electric uses a lithium ion battery design that is making its first appearance in the Mercedes S-400 BlueHYBRID that will be entering showrooms very soon.

It comes with everything that makes a smart a smart – but it doesn’t have a combustion engine. A 30 kW/41 bhp magnetic motor runs at the rear of the smart fortwo electric drive that is driven by a high-performance, high-temperature battery made from environmentally compatible sodium-nickel-chloride. This is housed in the underbody, which means that the interior space is not compromised

The li-ion batteries will probably be supplied by Tesla Motors, giving the electric drive smart car a range of up to 150 miles, which sounds good for an urban commuter. This might not be able for the US market in the eyes of Daimler, though… We’ll have to see.

Even though we knew it was coming, we’re still excited that this little all-electric wonder finally made the jump across the pond. According to the smart rep we talked to, no one here in the US will be behind the wheel of one of these until 2010 or 2011, when 1,000 smart eds will be brought over for testing – much like they are being used in places like the UK and Italy.


Renault Fluence 2010

Renault Fluence is a new model that replaces the Renault Megane Sedan. Is now available at dealers with prices ranging between € 17,400 and € 20,500. Its production is conducted in the Oyak-Renault factory in Bursa (Turkey).

The interior design is exactly the same as that of a Megane. The only difference Fluence a decorative element and the instrumentation (speedometer is analog). The qualities and the components are the same in both models ..

The highest finish of the range has multiple elements such as chrome door handles, fence of the counters, the knob of the shifter or leather upholstery available in dark or light.

FluenceAl Renault Megane As in, has paid special attention to decorative elements for achieving varied environments and differentiated according to trim levels. Thus, customers can choose between light or other environment darker.

The seats of the front seats have 70 mm of enhancement (+ / – 35 mm) and 240 mm of travel. Also you can adjust the seat-back, headrest and lumbar support. The steering wheel is adjustable for height and depth.

The Renault Fluence offers more than 23 liters in a guardaobjetos scattered around the cabin with, among others, an illuminated, refrigerated glovebox (for versions equipped with automatic climate control) of 9 liters, a center console or a 2.2-liter bins in the front doors with capacity of 2.6 liters each.

The luggage compartment volume, of 530 dm3, ranks among the best in the category. The low loading sill and the wide horizontal opening (1,020 mm) which is due to the implementation of part of the taillights in the rear door, facilitating access to the trunk.

2/3-1/3 The rear bench seat allows cargo volume adapt to customer needs, especially for long or bulky loads, the lack of sheet metal bulkhead between the trunk and passenger compartment.

Renault Fluence’s cabin provides more than 23 litres of stowage space, including an illuminated, refrigerated, nine-litre glovebox, a 2.2-litre centre console and a 2.6-litre bin in each front door. The 530dm3 boot capacity is one of the biggest in its class. Access is facilitated by a low sill and a large (1,020mm) aperture, which has been made possible by incorporating one part of the rear light cluster within the boot lid.

The 60/40-split folding rear seat enables the load capacity to be increased to suit the needs of the moment. The absence of any steel partition between the cabin and the boot makes this feature particularly useful when long or bulky items need to be carried

The electric power steering combines precise driver feedback with quick, accurate response to instructions from the wheel. It is easy to use and feels completely natural.

Engines that combine punch with fuel economy

From launch, and depending on market, Renault Fluence will be available with a wide range of thrifty engines which are all a pleasure to drive.

Two petrol engines, each available in two versions:
1.6 16V 110hp, with automatic transmission or manual gearbox2.0 16V 140hp, with continuously variable transmission (CVT) or manual gearbox

A choice of five variants of the 1.5 dCi diesel block:
dCi 85dCi 90 DPFdCi 105dCi 110 DPFdCi 110 DPF with the new dual clutch transmission (DCT)

All diesel-engined versions return CO2 emissions of 119g/km and qualify for the Renault eco² environmental hallmark.

Entry-level Renault Fluence models will be equipped with:

  • ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution,
  • emergency braking assist, with automatic activation of the hazard warning lights,
  • ESC (electronic stability control) with CSV understeer control,
  • three-point inertia-reel seatbelts, with pretensioners and load limiters for the front seatbelts,
  • inertia-reel seatbelts with load limiters for all three rear seats,
  • driver and passenger airbags, two lateral thorax airbags and two curtain airbags,
  • warning alert if driver or passenger seatbelts are unfastened,
  • three-point Isofix anchorage for outer rear seats,
  • cruise control with speed limiter,
  • latest-generation headrests.


Pininfarina Blue

The B0 (B Zero) electric car created by Italy’s Pininfarina and France’s Bolloré looks quite promising, in good part because it isn’t just a concept car and the partners say that the first units will be delivered in about a year. Leases (€330/month) will be available in six European countries , and you can put your name on the list right now.

The totally 100% electric car’s battery can be recharged by plugging it into a standard home electrical outlet. A full charge will take about five hours, but a five-minute charge will be enough for a 25 km run. A number of roadside recharging electrical outlets already exist in some of the world’s major cities. As sales increase, more will be installed by city governments, service stations and parking facilities. The joint venture plans to build 15,000 vehicles a year.

Its LMP battery, which will be rechargeable in a matter of hours from a standard domestic main socket, will provide it with a range of 250 km (153 miles). The B° will have a top speed that is electronically limited to 130 km/h (80 mph) and will feature potent acceleration, reaching 60 km/h from a standing start (0 to 37 mph) in 6.3 seconds. The B° will also feature solar panels on its roof and hood, so as to help recharge its electrical power reserves.

The BLUECAR is a compact 5-door, 4-seat MPV powered by LMP batteries (Lythium Metal Polymere), which Pininfarina has coupled with a “supercapacity” energy storage device that will give this MPV a range of 250 km on a single charge. Batteries can be re-charged at any 230V outlet and the process takes “a few hours”, a vagueness we’ve come to expect from electric car makers. Pininfarina also claims the batteries will have a life-span of 200,000 km

The zero-emission electric vehicle by Pininfarina and Bolloré is expected to be available for rental by the end of 2010. The vehicle, dubbed the Bluecar, will be launched if the crash tests are successful and the car meets the required safety regulations. The vehicle will also go on sale at a later, yet unknown date.

Bolloré has inaugurated two new battery plants in France, each of which would have an annual production of 15,000 30KWh batteries by the year 2013, which can be used to make 30,000 Pininfarina cars, or 10,000 buses, or 60,000 small urban vehicles. The companies are however planning to build a mix of all three.


Nissan Leaf 2010

Nissan finally showed off the first of several new electric vehicles this morning at the opening of its new global headquarters in Yokohama. Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, a longtime skeptic on hybrids, is betting that the Leaf and other EVs, will quickly become mass market hits, and even suggested that fully electric models could account for 10% of all car sales by 2020.

Key to its success will be bringing down the cost of the batteries, which currently cost around $10,000 per car to make. Sensibly, Nissan plans to lease the batteries to customers rather than try to sell the car at an inflated price. Initially, the carmaker will share the burden by taking advantage of government subsidies and cheap loans to ensure sales are profitable from day one. The challenge will be to get costs down to a sufficient level by the time governments begin scaling back incentives. Mass production should help. Ghosn, once again emphasizing the importance of affordability, said that the cost of leasing the batteries, plus the electricity used to charge them, will be less than what customers spend on gasoline for regular cars.

The five-seat, electric-blue Leaf hatchback is to be launched in select U.S. and Japanese markets next year to begin what Nissan hopes will become an era of global leadership for the company in a growing EV market.

Leadership shouldn’t be evasive if the Leaf lives up to its performance billing. A top speed of 90 mph, a range of 100 miles per charge with a 30-minute recharge where quick-charging stations are available (6 hours with a 220-volt current) and seat cushion-compressing acceleration that will launch it from zero to 30 mph faster than an Infiniti G37, thanks to 207 pound-feet of torque from its 80 kilowatt (107 horsepower) electric motor are all part of the package.


The Leaf uses a front-mounted electric motor driving the wheels, powered by a 24kW·h/90 kW lithium ion battery pack. The expected cruising range is the same as the EV-11 prototype, as is the motor.[5] The battery pack is made of air-cooled stacked modules.


Nissan claims that the car has a top speed of over 140 km/h (87 mph).

The battery can be charged with 480 Volt, 220 Volt and 110 Volt sources. With 480 Volts, it can be charged to 80% capacity in about 30 minutes with a special quick charger that sends 480 volt 125 amp direct current to the battery.With 220 Volt, it can be charged in 4 hours, and in North America and Japan using standard household 110 Volt outlets it can be charged in 16 hours.

Powered by a unique array of thin, laminated lithium ion cells capable of delivering over 90 kW of power, the Leaf’s front-mounted electric motor delivers 80 kW (107 horsepower) and a healthy 280 Nm of torque (208 pound-feet), and it promises brisk and silent off-the-line power, with acceleration from a stop comparable to that of the company’s Infiniti G35. And as Nakamura-san noted, the Leaf has a top speed of over 140 km/h (87 mph).

Perhaps more important than the Leaf’s top speed are its battery’s charging characteristics. In this regard, the car’s under-floor mounted assembly of 48 lithium ion modules (each laptop-sized module is comprised of four magazine-sized cells) offers a number of charging strategies. To yield a full charge, a 200-volt, single-phase AC charger takes less than eight hours, and topping off the battery from a 100 volt single-phase standard home wall outlet will take somewhere around twice that time, so prospective Leafmakers would do well to get 220 volt hookup like their clothes dryer uses out in their garage.

Connected Mobility

Nissan Leaf will employ an advanced IT system. Connected to a global data center, the system provides support, information, and entertainment for drivers 24 hours a day. The dash-mounted monitor displays the Leaf’s remaining power, in addition to showing a selection of nearby charging stations.

Users’ mobile phones can be used to turn on air-conditioning, the heater and re-set charging functions even when the vehicle is powered down. An on-board remote-controlled timer can also be pre-programmed to recharge batteries.

While Nissan promises to deliver the Leaf to its first American customers in late 2010, it isn’t immediately clear where it will be made available, to whom, and how. By that we mean the zero-emissions vehicle will likely be marketed in select stateside cities that have already committed to building some of the necessary infrastructure to support electric vehicles, and the Leaf likely won’t be available for purchase, it will probably be a lease-only proposition – at least initially.

Officials are still working out the specifics on a global market-by-market basis, but in the U.S., at least, they are aiming for a cost similar to their midsize Altima offering – presumably after all local and federal government incentives for ZEV are factored in. Initial allotments of the Leaf will probably be leased, with the batteries also being a leased proposition, minimizing consumers’ up-front risks for adopting this new style of vehicle and allowing for easier, more cost-effective upgrades as technology improves. As has been done with other automakers’ alternative energy pilot programs in the past, the Leaf will probably be distributed to fleets and very select customers at first – a more widespread commercial push isn’t expected until 2012.

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Mitsubishi iMiEV

According to unconfirmed reports from Japanese news sources, Mitsubishi Motors will begin supplying electric cars to PSA/Peugeot-Citroen Group as early as next year. Japan’s fifth-largest carmaker could supply as many as 10,000 Mitsubishi i-MiEV passenger electric cars a year to the French automaker by 2011 on an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) basis.

At Mitsubishi’s first driving demonstration of its i MIEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle) prototype, we jumped behind the wheel to check out the sounds of silence.

Battery Life
Once we’re motoring along, the interior of the i MIEV seems as quiet as a church and the scenery slips silently past. When you back out of a parking lot, you can hear yourself breathe.

Apart from the lack of any recognizable noise, this i minicar seems like any current showroom model from Mitsubishi. Look closer, however, and you notice that the four-speed automatic transmission has been replaced by a two-position gear selector that lets you choose Drive or Eco mode. And where the tachometer normally goes on the instrument panel, this i sports a meter that indicates the charge status of the battery and the discharge rate.

With the i MIEV’s motor, inverter and charger located under the floor of the luggage area behind us, the 22 lithium-ion cells are artfully spread under the belly pan. Given that the car weighs 2,380 pounds — 397 pounds more than its gasoline-powered counterpart — it feels better to drive than we expect. Its low center of gravity helps minimize body roll and reduce brake dive.

The 2010 Mitsubishi i MIEV is expected to go on sale by the end of 2009 for around 2.5 million yen ($24,000), although Japanese government subsidies for zero-emissions cars reduce this price by 50 percent.

As a kind of preview as to what’s coming in terms of future zero-emissions cars, the i MIEV is a significant breakthrough. But to tell the truth, we were hoping for a car with a reliable real-world range of at least 90 miles — not just a theoretical range — which would permit a useful half-day trip before a quick recharge at lunchtime.

The introduction of the MiEV OS (MiEV Operating System) – an advanced integrated vehicle management system into which the company has poured its wealth of know-how garnered from many years of EV research and development – has provided the kind of high performance and reliability that befits a new-generation EV.

The i-MiEV uses a 3-way charging system that allows the drive battery to be charged at home or when out and about. For normal charging i-MiEV is connected to either a standard 100-volt or 200-volt domestic outlet using the charging cables supplied with the vehicle. The i-MiEV’s battery can also be “quick charged” at quick-charge stations which are currently being established throughout Japan.

The i-MiEV is powered by a very high energy-density lithium-ion battery manufactured by Lithium Energy Japan. The large-capacity drive battery is comprised of 88 lithium-ion cells connected in series and is installed under the floor in the center of the vehicle. This configuration contributes to outstanding handling and stability due to the car’s low center of gravity.

The high points from our time in a pre-production, right-hand-drive i-MiEV:

  • SIZE: This is a very, very small car, but it carries four adults within more room than you’d expect.
  • PERFORMANCE: Keeps up with urban traffic, especially if you leave “Eco” mode off.
  • FEATURES: It’s got air-conditioning, electric windows, a stereo, and other standard equipment.
  • QUALITY & REFINEMENT: Well-built, simple but functional, nothing to be ashamed of.
  • BOTTOM LINE: If they can make it pass US safety standards, we think Mitsubishi could sell thousands of i-MiEVs a year here. It’s that good.

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