Mitsubishi's Lancer Evo IX goes rallying this weekend. Nothing new with that, but this is an Evo with a difference because instead of a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine the Lancer Evolution MIEV boasts a bank of lithium-ion batteries powering a quartet of in-wheel electric motors.
Mitsubishi hopes the MIEV could herald the future of a new kind of high-performance vehicle, with its outer-rotor motors distinguishing this Evo from other electric cars and allowing it to remain four-wheel drive.
Normal electric motors place the rotor (the turning part) inside the stator (the part that generates the power). In these motors the rotor surrounds the stator, leaving a hole in the middle that contains the brake discs and calipers. The more compact design allows the motors to be fitted to the front wheels, previously a problem because the motors would have fouled the steering gear, and raises outputs: each motor produces a massive 382lb ft and a rather less impressive 67bhp. The engine, transmission, axles, differentials and fuel tank are replaced by a lithium-ion battery pack and a pair of invertors, one for each pair of driven wheels.
Each wheel is driven individually, and Mitsubishi says it is looking ways of controlling power and torque independently at each wheel to create a very sophisticated traction control system.Although the car only has a top speed of 111mph, and at 1590kg weighs 120kg more than a regular Evo XI, Mitsubishi said that it plans to increase the car’s performance and reduce the weight. It’s likely that the Evo’s suspension will need work, as the weight of each motor could cause problems with the movement of the struts.
The company also sees the outer rotor motor as a key part of its development of hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles. First round of development work will be at the Shikoku Electric Vehicle rally in Japan, an annual event held to promote electric vehicle technology, on August 27-28.