With any new technology there’s always a steep initial price as low supply and even lower demand play a delicate balancing act that will eventually determine whether the technology lives or dies. The same is true for electric vehicles (EVs), which are still considerably more expensive than regular gasoline powered cars, even with government funded incentive programs.

Take the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which has already gone on sale in Japan and is about to be launched in Europe. In Japan the tiny urban runabout sells for about $53,000 and in German prices will go as high as $59,000--about the same price as a fully-loaded luxury sedan--but for its U.S. launch, pegged for the fall of 2011, Mitsubishi is hoping to reduce prices to less than $30,000. This may still seem steep for such a tiny car but this is before the $7,500 federal tax credit for EVs is taken into account.

The information comes from Mitsubishi’s director of electric-vehicle operations, Joe Delello, who spoke recently with Automotive News.

"We're very keen on being as competitive as possible," he told reporters. "We certainly want to make it as close as possible to the reach of many intenders."

They will certainly need to cut prices drastically. The bigger and more conventional 2012 Nissan Leaf EV, which arrives this December, will have a pricetag of about $32,780 (also excluding the tax credit). To reduce the prices, Mitsubishi is looking for lower lithium-ion battery costs spawned from increase production, and it will also sell rebadged versions of the i-MiEV through the French brands Peugeot and Citroen.

[Automotive News, sub req’d]