You may not realise it, but automakers often work together on shared projects, vehicles or technology improvements. But when the top two electric car makers in the world agree to work together, even we find that interesting. 

Enter Mitsubishi and Nissan. Both poised to start selling their own electric cars worldwide, the two Japanese firms have been firm rivals in the electric vehicle marketplace but have just signed a collaboration agreement to work together even more closely than they have in the past, sharing vehicle platforms for both worldwide and Japanese domestic markets. 

And perhaps, just perhaps, the two Japanese automakers may end up working on an electric vehicle together. 

Selling for the same price in many markets, the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Mitsubishi i-Miev (the precursor to the U.S. specification 2012 Mitsubishi i) are poised to do battle for electric vehicle supremacy over the next few months.

Mitsubishi currently holds the title of the highest number of highway capable EVs sold worldwide, thanks to a head-start on Nissan. But even though Mitsubishi will start selling its four-seat city car in Europe in January rebadged as the Citroen C-Zero, Peugeot iOn and Mitsubishi i-Miev, Nissan is expected to steal the title with the 2011 LEAF thanks to overwhelming pre-orders worldwide.

First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee

First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee

If both companies are rivals in the electric vehicle marketplace, why work together in other segments? 

The simple answer? They have an existing mutually beneficial manufacturing agreement. 

Mitsubishi already sells cars made by Nissan, and Nissan reciprocate with some of Mitsubishi's vehicles. 

The new agreement just tightens the connection between both firms. While Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn has said no details have been discussed on electric car cooperation we think a small city car the best platform for both companies to develop new battery technology, better motors and more efficient drivetrains. 

For those in the know, we’d like to suggest a new parlor game over the Holiday season: The six degrees of automotive separation. Extra credit of course, goes to those who can link any automaker to a direct competitor in less than three. 

[Nissan, Mitsubishi] via [Bloomberg]