By the good grace of its owner Karl, I had my first drive of a Mitsubishi i-MiEV at the Canberra International EV Festival.
The iMiEV (an acronym for “Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle”) is based on the Mitsubishi i Kei car; light vehicles governed by displacement (660 cc), size (Length 3.4 m, Width 1.48 m, Height 2 m) and power (47 kW; 64 PS; 63 hp). I’ve driven many Kei cars and recent models are more than adequate. I once drove my brother-in-law’s Mitsubishi Pajero Mini 4WD with intercooled turbo engine in the snow to the North of Hyogo Prefecture. Quite an experience to be driving at 100 km/h @ 7500 rpm!
Despite (or because of) their small dimensions, Kei cars are typically tall enough to fit even me; though it isn’t unusual for my shoulders to be almost touching the glass and the passenger.
Here’s a comparison between the i-MiEV and the i. Note that the power is at the top of the Kei regulations and the torque is 2-3 times that of the 3-cylinder turbo petrol i. The larger dimensions in the US spec are not replicated in the i because it is only exported to right-hand-drive markets outside Japan.
3B20 659 cc, DOHC, MIVEC 12v I3
3B20T 659 cc, DOHC, MIVEC, 12v I3 turbocharger
47 kW (64 PS)
38 kW (52 PS) at 7000 rpm
42–48 kW (57–65 PS) at 6000 rpm
180 N·m (133 lb·ft)
57 N·m (42 lb·ft) at 4000 rpm
85–95 N·m (63–70 lb·ft) at 3000 rpm
Single speed reduction gear
16 kWh/58 MJ (Li-ion battery)
160 km (99 mi) (Japanese cycle)
19.0km/l ~ 18.4km/l JC08
100 km (62 mi) (US EPA cycle)
665km ~ 644km
3,475 mm (2012 Au)
3,680 mm (US)
1,110 kg (2012 Au)
The doors of the i-MiEV were somewhat more substantial than an old Kei car; light, not flimsy. Side impact testing requires strength. Seating position was easy and the wheel was only a little bit too low; again, not unusual when you’re 195 cm tall and no longer at your fighting weight.
The dash is dominated by a large, analogue energy monitor. The eco, power and regenerative zones are clearly marked. The speed is a digital readout in the centre. The battery (icon is a petrol pump with a two-pin plug instead of a nozzle), transmission position and range indicators complete the set.
After the Prius, turning a key to start a car is soooo last century but the ON then START process is at least familiar to most drivers. No greeting tune like the Nissan Leaf and of course no vibration or noise.
Driving off is very similar to EV mode in the Prius (c. 30kW vs 47kW motors) up to low city speeds, the most obvious difference being that you don’t have to be gentle to prevent the non-existent petrol engine from starting. Another similarity was the ability to glide (no power, no regen, just gliding) by lightly pressing the accelerator pedal to keep the energy monitor needle between Charge and ECO. Karl pointed out the three regen modes: D for city driving, B for braking on long downhills and C for cruising longer distances with minimal regen. The distinct modes are selectable through a floor-mounted lever similar to an auto transmission.
Full throttle action is… delayed by the computer. Floor it and the needle gradually moves through to Power range until it finally hits the maximum. Could this be a safety feature or a form of traction control, I wondered. Acceleration is about 12 s for 0-100km/h so its not slow for a small car and the extra torque compared to the Prius EV mode is obvious at fill throttle.
My test drive was a rare experience in Australia as only 110 have been leased and 39 privately purchased as at July 2011. These cars are expensive by their nature, but unlike many other countries there are few tax advantages to buying one. In ACT there’s no stamp duty on the original purchase, saving $1540 on a normal $48,800 car. However, you’ll pay 3% on the first $45,000 and 5% after that if you buy second-hand, just like a normal car. Registration can actually be more expensive by virtue of additional weight; a i-MiEV is $25.40 more to register than the i. In Victoria, hybrid and electric vehicles get a $100 discount on registration, however you have to pay $1.40 for a pair of “EV” or “hybrid” number plate stickers, in the same way that you need an “LPG” sticker.
We should thank our early adopters more.
And for the record, I quite like the look of it.
To make up for my lack of photos and video, here’s a few videos from television’s Robert Llewellyn on his i-MiEV.
This was the third CIEVF I’ve attended and it was interesting to compare to those of earlier years.
The move from the lawns near old Parliament House in previous year to the Civic Walk was a change that probably paid off. The relaxed, open, green fields and the blocked roads for full-throttle Tesla rides were replaced by a slightly cramped mall (which was constrained by some construction works) and slightly cramped parking area. There have been car shows there before and the multicultural festival takes up ever available cobblestone, but I wonder if the electric boats and hybrid trucks of earlier years were kept away by the lack of space.
Fortunately, it worked out quite well; there was sufficient parking reserved and power to run loops of London Circuit and level access to the mall was nearby – though the Detroit Electric with its big, wire wheels was able to drive straight over the kerb!
Where the previous site was known to those in the know, Civic brought a lot of passing traffic who would not have otherwise been exposed to EV let alone driven one, which some lucky visitors (me included) were able to do.
Change of Date (and with it, change of weather)
I understand that various reasons delayed the festival from its usual September to December. The prospect of pleasant weather brought with it more favourable temperature conditions for charging and discharging batteries.
As it happened, the weather was very hot and windy to start but became more pleasant when a threatened thunderstorm brought only spots of rain an a cool breeze.
The standard of exhibits was good. The Better Place stand was the largest, staffed with well-dressed, well-versed, well-enthused people. They showcased the Holden Volt and Commodore EV while promoting their public charging deal (see below).
The Detroit Electric cars (see above) took many for a ride of the future from almost 100 years ago. No noise, no steering wheel, driver in the back facing the passengers… must have been quite a sight driving around London Circuit.
CIT had a display for their mechanics course, teaching the service requirements of hybrid vehicles to apprentice and experienced mechanics. (I’m more interested in a short course were an old Prius will be refurbished and an EV built.)
Lots of electric bicycles and motorcycles on show. Everything from ones with baskets to Dutch/Danish style delivery bikes to scooters to motorbikes to racing bikes. Bamboo-framed bike was startling enough without its bright green highlights.
Canberra EV had a display of some of the principles of EV, in particular how electric motors work.
Corrie from NilCO2 was back again with 2 cars, including a Gen II with a K140 pack by Jen, the Canberra installer for NilCO2. (Jon, you would have loved what she has done with her car.) Now I’m tossing up between the K40 supplementary battery or the K100 HV replacement in my Gen III. Corrie showed me some of the new cells rated at 5000 cycles; up from 2-3000 in the previous generation.
There was a very good display from Beyond Zero Emissions explaining the fantastic notion that Australia could convert to a completely carbon-free energy future that would only take 10 years to implement at a cost of $37 billion per year, or 3% of GDP. Download the plan from the website above. And read it. And write a letter to your MP asking what they intend to do about it.
loop, “the world’s first truly sustainable residential, commercial and retail experience” had a display of its development surrounding the Belconnen Fresh Food Markets. If the brochure is anything to go by the future is driving Mitsubishi i-MiEVs.
Cars and Bikes
The Holden Volt overshadowed the single Tesla Roadster for rarity value alone. (Though the carbon fibre interior of the Tesla beats the bright, white dashboard of the Volt hands down.) As for specs, the Holden Volt appears to be a slightly localised version of the Chevy Volt (appearance, engine and ancillaries) with suspension tune closer to the Opel Ampera. Only one trim level (the top one) is available at $59,990 or about $64,000 on road. In ACT the stamp duty when purchasing new is $0, but it isn’t clear if you will get discount registration. (Come on ACT!)
A very exciting car was one of the 7 Commodore EV developed by EV Engineering. The battery (estimated range 150km) is more or less the shape of the transmission of the rear-wheel-drive donor vehicle with the section in the engine bay extended upwards to the top of the firewall. It only extends about 20cm from the firewall so that the battery can drop without fouling the steering gear and cross-members. Yes, the car has battery swap ability and therefore could be a game-changer. In July 2012 one broke the world distance record for an EV – 1886 kilometres of driving over a 24-hour period, in large part because batteries could be swapped for fully-charged ones in a few minutes.
There were plenty of DIY conversions from Canberra EV members, as usual. Everyone was more than willing to discuss their cars.
The Canberra EV members wore polo shirts to identify themselves and where approachable and informative.
However, I think that overall the festival was too passive. For instance, there was an introduction, but no further PA announcements explaining what was happening. (Maybe there was a restriction on PA in the mall?)
The Canberra EV stand could learn from Questacon. People are fascinated by science and simple displays can explain so much.
Why not have a FAQ? There are a lot of myths about EV and a simple Q&A and a few posters could have cleared things up.
One word: Merchandise?
My tip for next year
Invite Robert Llewellyn of Red Dwarf, Scrapheap Challenge, Carpool and Fully Charged fame. Is there anyone else doing more across more platforms to promote EV, hybrids and alternative energy while defending all right-thinking people from the worst effects of Jeremy Clarkson?
Big thanks to Heather for her stories, Karl for letting me drive his i-MiEV and everyone else. See you next year.
AFAIK, this is a first big push by Better Place to promote its public charging network in Canberra. Put down a deposit on a cable, get 24 months free charging.
UPDATE 17:20 01/12/2012
It really is that simple. As confirmed by Better Place at the Canberra International EV Festival, put down $400 deposit on the cable and you can use their public charging network around Canberra.
Well… there is one catch. AFAIK none of the spaces is for the exclusive use of EV (or PHV or ERHV). For months I’ve seen anything but electric cars parked in the spaces at Belconnen Fresh Food Markets, even as the number of spaces has grown from 2 to 5. In fact there was a skip parked in one of those spaces until recently.
Now I’m not going to name and shame the drivers of ICE cars who park in those spots; they’re not contravening any restrictions. In an recent email reply, Better Place pointed out that the spaces belong to the property owners and they could do with them what they liked. Better Place also hoped that they would change their mind.
Canberra is not teeming with EV and most drivers I spoke to today said that they don’t expect or rely on charging facilities anywhere but at home. However, put $400 into the equation and suddenly you’ve paid for the privilege and your expectations change. Those spaces are going to be used.
What can you do? Write to Belconnen Fresh Food Markets and ask if they are reviewing the use of the 5 spaces. Perhaps they could make the spaces:
exclusively for EV with no time restriction
exclusively for EV with no time restriction, however the charging cable must be plugged in at all times
15 minute spaces for ICE cars and unrestricted for EV
valet service only. With car washing facility.
If not, Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets might put in some EV spaces of its own.
Remember to keep yourself nice when you ask nicely for something that would be nice.