After debuting in Tokyo and making an appearance in Detroit, Subaru has announced it will produce the tiny R1e electric vehicle for sale in Japan. A gasoline-powered 0.66-liter engine version of the car, the R1, is already on sale in that country and achieves a remarkable 56 mpg. For the R1e, Subaru will swap out the engine and replace it with an electric motor and advanced laminated lithium ion batteries developed in a joint venture between Fuji Heavy Industries - Subaru's parent company - and NEC. According to Subaru, these batteries can be charged by plugging the car into electrical outlets usually reserved for air conditioning units in Japan, with a 90 percent charge taking only five minutes. A full charge should power the car for a range of about 125 miles. Batteries are projected to last for over 90,000 miles before needing replacement.
Reports from Japan suggest Subaru could be ready to sell the R1e in Japan by 2009. By then, Subaru may already have at least one hybrid electric vehicle on the road. Subaru is expected to unveil a hybrid version of its Legacy sedan in 2007, powered by an electric motor and a small, turbocharged gasoline engine, the latter a powerplant that speaks to Subaru's area of expertise. The batteries will be lithium-ion, like those used in the R1e. Subaru expects the Legacy hybrid to offer a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy. The announcement in Japan that Subaru will be getting into the electric and hybrid vehicle game sent the company's stocks up 4.4 percent on the Tokyo Stock exchange.