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For Mitsubishi Motors, finding buyers for 2,000 of its electric vehicles was a snap. In fact orders rolled in so quickly for the iMiEV model, which is scheduled to begin leasing in Japan this summer, that the automaker now plans to ramp up production volumes faster […]

For Mitsubishi Motors, finding buyers for 2,000 of its electric vehicles was a snap. In fact orders rolled in so quickly for the iMiEV model, which is scheduled to begin leasing in Japan this summer, that the automaker now plans to ramp up production volumes faster than expected, the Associated Press reports. As the auto industry struggles with slumping sales, electric car makers seem to be racing to keep up with demand.

Next year, Mitsubishi aims to make 5,000 iMiEV cars, up from 2,000 this year and the 4,000 it had planned to produce in 2010. By 2011, the automaker is rumored to be shooting for 20,000 units (based on a Nikkei report picked up in MarketWatch), but a spokesperson quoted in the AP called this “speculative.”

Electric car startup Tesla Motors also announced higher-than-expected demand this week. Since unveiling the concept version of its Model S electric sedan last Thursday, the company said it has pulled in more than 500 orders (customers pay a $5,000 refundable fee to reserve a spot in line) for the vehicle, which remains at least two years away from production (slated to begin in late 2011).

While Tesla has been targeting wealthy early adopters, first with the luxury electric Roadster sports car and now with its planned high-end family sedan, Mitsubishi is initially going after corporate leasers in Japan, including the utility Tokyo Electric Power Corp. By the end of the year, the Monaco government aims to begin testing a fleet of iMiEVs for community services and businesses, CNET reports. Here in the U.S., municipal and state fleet operators have a growing number of reasons to take a closer look at cleaner cars — but there’s one biggie: stimulus funds.

  1. [...] in the race to develop plug-in vehicles for the mass market, including Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi. But those automakers have already made their own investments in battery technology for plug-in and [...]

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