Mitsubishi made the first North American deliveries of its i-MiEV electric vehicle to a car-sharing company in California this week.
The Japanese carmaker, one of the first to have a full electric vehicle on the market, said the vehicles, which were ordered by City CarShare in the San Francisco Bay area, were the first of several new electric vehicles it plans to sell in North America in coming years.
City CarShare is a non-profit organization that aims to promote innovative mobility. The company provides short-term access to cars and hopes the scheme will help reduce traffic congestion, alleviate parking problems and reduce people's dependence on fossil fuels for transportation.
Sales of full battery-powered electric vehicles started this year, but demand has been slow as potential buyers worry about high costs, limited electric driving range and the absence of a well-developed battery-recharging infrastructure.
Carmakers such as Mitsubishi and Nissan, which sells a competitor EV, the Leaf, say tests have shown that limited battery capacity is, on the whole, not an issue in day-to-day use. With a range of 100km-150km before the need to recharge, most people won't have to worry, they say, because their average daily driving distances are much shorter.
General Motors has added a so-called range extender to its Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera electric models. That gasoline engine kicks in when the battery is empty, providing a few hundred extra kilometers of range.
BMW, which will roll out an electric city vehicle, the i3, in 2013, will also provide an optional range extender.