In this last interview I conducted at Pikes Peak 2013 with Mitsubishi, Mr. Hasegawa talks about the electric vehicle strategy with the company. It is obvious the automobile industry is headed toward the electrification of cars.
Masatoshi Hasegawa, Executive VP & Strategic Vehicle Operations, Sales Strategy, Corporate Planning, Mitsubishi.
NZ – Racing an electric MiEV Evolution II, what have you learned from last year?
MH – Last year, Mitsubishi was a rookie, but this year things changed completely. A lot of factors and data were gathered to make this year more successful, such as cornering, downwind force, etc. The challenge this year was to go further and be better. We didn’t know how much down force was such a huge factor. Mitsubishi did its homework well for this year. The aim was to be in the high finish numbers, which considering the downpour rain was good. The other challenge was to have both electric prototypes finish in the first 2 spots. We can say mission accomplished on both accounts.
NZ – Competition at Pikes Peak seems to be going for the Unlimited Class?
MH – Mitsubishi is continuing to work in the EV category, since we were one of the very first ones to bring an electric car to the market, certainly the first one in Japan. This is especially important as we prepare to launch the Outlander PHEV in 2014. We see the US, European and Asian markets all different and we are devising the best strategy going forward. For instance, the European market is much more aware of its environment and we still have more work to do in the US.
NZ – What is happening with EV Market and PHEV?
MH – Japan and Europe are ready for pure EVs. Europeans can travel long distance cross countries, PHEVs are perfect for that. For EVs it’s more an everyday use, short range is perfect while the industry matures.
NZ – EVs were poorly marketed, what are your thoughts on this?
MH – With our European and US markets, marketing EVs was a challenge. European understand EVs better and that their use is ideally suited for city driving. In the US, the common expectation is that we need to drive far. So in many ways, the Outlander PHEV will do well here with the greater distances covered on our roads. However, with …EV… infrastructure growing in Europe, they are ready for them. While in the US, with the vast territory we cover, PHEVs offer a compelling reason until the infrastructure allows for longer driving distance.
NZ – How critical are EVs for Mitsubishi?
MH – It is a big part of it! The US market needs better combustion engines with better technology, which we are working on. Mitsubishi is going back to its roots, with direct injection and diesel technology. We can even imagine a diesel engine on a PHEV platform in the future for the US now that the technology is seen favorably.
This concludes our last series of interviews with the Mitsubishi MiEV Evolution II at Pikes Peak 2013. So what do we take away from all this? Mitsubishi has shown a serious interest to step into the future by focusing on its electric drivetrain technology. I was impressed to see how much of their every day cars technology made its way into the MiEV Evolution II. For instance, the electric motors are from the i MiEV, albeit tweaked for race. The electric steering column comes from the 2014 Outlander.
I’m also impressed to see the smaller carmaker pour so much of their resources and investments into the future of the electric drivetrain. In one of our next articles, we caught up again with Greg Tracy and Mr. Hasegawa at Mitsubishi’s Owners Day for a quick video interview take. Mr. Hasegawa tells us a little bit more what to expect next with electric racing. In the meantime, I can tell you that Mitsubishi is revamping its entire line up of cars. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see an electric motor popping here and there on their performance car. In the meantime, I look forward to the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV test drive soon.