By MURRAY HUBBARD
5 April 2010
I drove six kilometres around Brisbane without putting one
skerrick of pollution into the atmosphere. For the first time in
43 years of driving I was totally independent of the need for
petrol, LPG or diesel.
Welcome to the new world of the EV. Electric Vehicle, a term we
are all going to hear a lot more of in the coming three to four
years. The future is here: the first commercially produced
electric car Mitsubishi's i MiEV is in Australia for
media, fleet and government evaluation. The first media drive was
based out of Brisbane with further events to follow in most
My road test is a follow up to drive events attended by Ewan
Kennedy in Adelaide and Tokyo last year. These were conducted in
So, what's it like to drive? It's basically no different to any
other car on the road. You turn it on, put it in gear, release the
hand brake and depress the accelerator and off you go. The only
eerie sensation is the quiet. There's just a slight hint of wind
and tyre noise when you get going. You look at the instrument
panel and instead of a fuel gauge there's a bar graph telling you
how much power is left in the batteries. There's a large
speedometer dead centre which will be needed as the i MiEV is
far from slow and on the right another gauge telling you how
many kilometres are left in the batteries.
Our short road test through Brisbane CBD and out to Milton and
return was enough to draw a few conclusions such as there's more
than enough power for city commuting, the car is comfortable and
handles nicely, the ride is light, it steers like any other small
car and does not have a `dead' feeling like the hybrids.
The i MiEV is a four-seat city commuter capable of up to 160
kilometres from a full battery charge from a typical electric plug
in your garage at home. If you drive only 30 kilometres then the
batteries do not require a recharge. If you decide to charge
anyway, then it will take about 90 minutes to get back to a full
tank of electricity. To fully recharge after around 160 km of
driving will take around 7 hours. In Japan there is currently
under development a quick-charge of around 30 minutes to restore
around 80 per cent of electricity to the batteries.
The i MiEV is the first of many EV's expected here in the coming
two to three years. Mitsubishi Australia is hoping to have the car
in showrooms by late this year, but the company admits there are
no guarantees about timing. Australia is small fish with PSA
Peugeot and Citroen putting in an order for 100,000 vehicles
to be badge engineered for Europe. The cars can be produced
quickly, but not the special large-capacity Lithium-ion batteries.
Based on a Japanese petrol-powered model, the i MiEV has its
engine in the back under the boot, driving the rear wheels. The
batteries are under the central to front floor.
The car is speed limited to 130 km/h, but has a top speed of
around 160 km/h. It car produces 47 kW or power, and a substantial
180 Nm of torque which is on tap from 0 km/h. This means fast
acceleration the second you put the foot down. It is deceptively
fast and more importantly is delivered in a seamless smooth way.
Those who have driven electric golf carts will understand the
smooth delivery of speed, but not on this scale.
Naturally, if you drive at high speeds and/or accelerate hard the
range before recharging is required is significantly cut. This
also applies to vehicles running on conventional fuels, but these
dont take seven hours to refill...
With the i MiEV motor hidden away the car has a normal sized boot
for this small car segment. The exterior design of the vehicle
itself reminds us of a Mercedes Benz A-Class. There is good
legroom in the rear, so there is no compromise for those
passengers. The car has a 2550 mm wheelbase, a dimension normally
found only in much larger cars.
There's a traditional-looking gear lever that gives three driving
modes: Drive, Eco and Brake. Drive is a full power mode. E stands
for Economy and Brake offers higher than the usual amount of
regenerative braking when the car isn't in this mode. Though
Mitsubishi says some drivers prefer the feel of the car when it's
not in the Brake mode, we actually preferred the engine-braking
that Brake provides.
Like all new technology, the i MiEV will not be cheap. Mitsubishi
Australia have not released pricing, but with the car already
available in Japan and the US the sums work out to somewhere
between $60,000 and $70,000. If the various Australia state
governments and the federal government are serious about cutting
emissions, then expect some form of government encouragement to
Mitsubishi and other EV manufacturers are currently
lobbying governments around Australia for various incentives to
persuade people to buy electric vehicles.
The fact is that commercially-built EVs are about to enter the
market and will change the language
we use in regard to vehicles and our thought processes. We
currently re-charge our mobile telephones as a normal part of our
daily lives, Mitsubishi says the same will apply to the EV.
Do we have enough power in the grid for electric cars? The answer
is if we all started driving EVs tomorrow the grid would need an
extra 11 per cent electricity, according to Dr Peter Pudney, a
senior researcher from the University of South Australia. This is
dependent on the car's batteries being re-charged during off-peak
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