Banking on strong interest due to record-high fuel prices, Mitsubishi Motors Corp will begin selling its electric car, called i-MiEV, to individual customers in Japan from summer 2009, slightly ahead of schedule, according to Reuters.

The breakdown of customer type is still in question. Mitsubishi had said it would begin offering the zero-emission car mainly to fleet customers next summer and to individuals no later than 2010. A spokesman said the company was still studying the timing of the launch to customers, and a 2009 roll-out remained possible. Another company official said Mitsubishi Motors plans to offer 2,000 electric cars in the first year of launch -- double what it had originally planned -- without providing a breakdown by customer type.

Mitsubishi Motors has said the electric car, based on the 660cc gasoline-engine "i" minivehicle, would be priced at 2.5 to 3 million yen ($23,420-$28,100). The cars can be recharged by connecting to an ordinary household electricity socket.

Mitsubishi Motors has a joint venture with Mitsubishi Corp and GS Yuasa Corp to produce lithium-ion batteries to be used in the electric vehicles starting next year.

Nissan Motor Co and Renault SA are also aggressively promoting the possibility of electric cars, although they have not shown a prototype yet. Nissan is looking to commercialize electric cars first in Japan and the United States in 2010.