Driving electric just got cheaper, as Mitsubishi announced that its 2012 'i' electric car would be priced at just $27,990 before incentives when deliveries begin in California next January.

That makes the 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' the least expensive plug-in car on sale in the U.S. market. It qualifies for a $7,500 Federal income-tax credit, plus a host of state, local, and corporate incentives.

The new pricing puts significant pressure on Toyota, which had vowed that its 2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid would be the lowest-priced plug-in sold in the States when it goes on sale by June 2012.

2012 Mitsubishi

2012 Mitsubishi

Interested buyers can register to pre-order the car starting tomorrow. In an interesting digital twist, a pair of deposits--one for the car, the other for a mandatory home inspection--will be accepted via Paypal.

The price of $27,990 applies to the base trim level, known as the 'i' ES. The next level up, the SE, adds 15-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps, and a better sound system, for an additional $2,000.

And the SE Premium trim level, for $2,790 more, adds a navigation system, more infotainment options, and a DC fast-charging port.

That last option may be the most important one, since it allows the battery pack to be recharged to about 80 percent of capacity in just half an hour.

2012 Mitsubishi

2012 Mitsubishi

The fast-charge port uses the same Chademo standard that's also optional on the 2011 Nissan Leaf, meaning that the handful of fast charging stations that now exist in the U.S.--there are ambitious plans to add more--will work with either vehicle.

One final option on the 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' electric car is the Cold Zone package, which includes heated exterior mirrors and a system to keep the lithium-ion battery pack warm.

The price does not include a required delivery charge, which Mitsubishi spokesman Moe Durand estimated to be in the neighborhood of $720.

Applying the same math that we used for a hypothetical buyer of a 2011 Nissan Leaf who lived and worked in a very particular set of circumstances, there are a handful of California buyers who might be able to buy a 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' for slightly less than $8,000.


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