Thursday, October 01, 2009

Mitsubishi new electric small van

Mitsubishi  i-MiEV CARGO electric vanMitsubishi Motors is showing its i-MiEV CARGO electric van at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show. This is derived from the i-MiEV electric car, which I test drove in Canberra. It will be on sale in Japan from April 2010.

The CARGO looks a very useful vehicle for small deliveries on short runs in inner city areas. It looks far more useful than the passenger i-MiEV, which offered little envrionmental benifit over the much cheaper petrol powered petrol engine Mitsubishi i small car it was based on.

i-MiEV CARGO specifications
Overall length 3395 mm
Overall width 1475 mm
Overall height 1860 mm
Wheelbase 2550 mm
Track F/R 1310 mm / 1270 mm
Occupants 2
Motor Permanent magnet synchronous
Max. output 47 kW
Max. torque 180 Nm
Max. cruising range 160 km
Drive train Rear wheel drive
Tire size Front: 145/65R15; Rear: 175/55R15
Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV Also on show will be the PX-MiEV hybrid petrol/electric "crossover" concept car. This appears to be Mitsubishi's answer to the Toyota Kluger Hybrid. Such a vehicle makes no practical sense and hopefully this one will not go into production.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Mitsubishi i MiEV electric car test drive

Mitsubishi i MiEV After a presentation by Mitsubishi Australia staff I had a brief test drive of the i MiEV electric car. The car lived up to the claims made by Mitsubishi Australia CEO and President , Robert McEniry that it was a production car, not a prototype. The car has two very roomy seats at the front and a slightly cramped, but usable two seat bench at the back. There is a usable load space accessed via the back hatch. This is a car I could drive around the city every day (but could not drive intercity).

The car has key less "ignition": you turn what looks like a normal knob on the steering column to get the car ready to go. Then you move what looks like an automatic floor shift from P to D and press the accelerator. The difference to a petrol car is that there is no engine noise when the car is stationary. There is also almost no perceptible engine noise when the car is moving. When you take your foot off the accelerator the car slows down slightly with some regenerative breaking. There is a "B" setting on the floor shift to simulate the engine breaking of a manual car. In other respects this looks and drives like a small four door hatchback car.

I was surprised by the low technology instrument panel used. I was expecting a flat screen display like the Toyota Prius. Instead there is a large digital speedometer set in the middle of a very large economy dial gauge showing energy use. The emphasis seems to on making the car look normal.

Overall this is a usable little car, comparable to my Daihatsu Sirion and other little cars, such as the Hyundai i10 and Suzuki Alto. However, such cars, with petrol engines of about 1 litre will cost around $15,000, or less, in Australia. The i MiEV will probably cost more than twice as much. Until the batteries can be mass produced at low cost, the electric car will be prohibitively expensive. In the interim it will make more sense, environmentally and financially, to use a smaller battery in a hybrid car.

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Mitsubishi i MiEV electric car in Canberra

Mitsubishi i MiEV Mitsubishi Australia CEO and President , Robert McEniry is just introduced the i MiEV electric car at the Boathouse Restaurant in Canberra. He claimed this was the world's first production electric car and had now been prepared for sale in Australia (not just a handmade prototype). Mr. McEniry did not shy away from the fact that because Australian electricity is generated from polluting coal. Dr. Peter Pudney from University of South Australia is then going to talk about the issues with electric cars. A little later we get to drive the car I have already driven a hand made Australian made electric car. The i MiEV is an electric version of the Mitsubishi i "K class" small car.

The 88 batteries for the car are lithium ion. One issue is the life of the batteries. The Nickel-metal hydride batteries in the Toyota Prius have lasted well.

The i MiEV is a very compact four seat car. Unlike most small cars, the engine is under the back seat, driving the rear wheels. The electric version has the batteries and electric motor in place of the fuel tank and petrol engine. The car has some addition CAM bus ecus to control the electric motor, with redundancy for reliability.

It struck me that the i MiEV has a similar layout to the Tata Nano. India already makes the REVA Electric Car. Assuming that Tata can meet demand for their petrol version, an electric Nano would seem a logical future development.

However, the major competitor for the i MiEV are inexpensive conventionally powered cars. To make such cars viable there will need to be sufficient renewable energy available and a sophisticated greenhouse gas policy to give incentives for its use. What also may help is a computer controlled smart grid to optimise the charging the cars. Smart transport systems would help optimise the use of the cars.

One example would be to use the cars with a share program such as that from GoGet. The share cars are parked at reserved parking spaces in the inner suburbs. It would make sense to equip these parking spaces with recharging stations. This would maximise the use of the cars.

There were staff of both the federal environment and innovation departments at the briefing. Hopefully they are not considering giving Mitsubishi a subsidy for the car in Australia. There are a lot better ways Australia could spend its money in the national economic and environmental interests.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Electric cars not zero emission

Mitsubishi i MiEV Mitsubishi are demonstrating their i MiEV electric car in Australia and have invited me for a test drive. I have already driven an Australian made electric car. The i MiEV is an electric version of the Mitsubishi i small car. The invitation referred to the i MiEV as a zero drive-time emissions
electric vehicle. This is an interesting, very precise description. The issue is that the electric car does not emit CO2, but generating the electricity to charge the car may do so. Most electricity in Australia is generated from burning coal, which produces CO2 pollution (especially Victorian brown coal). If the car is recharged from this coal sourced electricity, then it cannot be reasonably described as a zero emissions vehicle. However, it is technically correct to qualify this with "drive-time" to indicate that while you are driving the car it emits no CO2. This is a distinction which the general public are unlikely to understand and Mitsubishi need to be careful they do not make misleading statements about the green credentials of the car.

From a public policy point of view there is not a strong case for electric cars in Australia. If you recharged the car using renewable energy, the emissions would be less. But little petrol cars are very fuel efficient. The nation, the environment and the car owner might be better off with a small conventional powered car. The money saved over buying an electric car could be spent on renewable energy for use at home. With larger cars a diesel engine, natural or LPG gas might be a better option than electric. Until there are reasonably priced sources of renewable energy there may be only a very limited role for the electric car in Australia.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mitsubishi i MiEV electric car in Australia

Mitsubishi i MiEVAccording to a media release, Mitsubishi will be demonstrating their i MiEV electric car in Australia. So called "key stakeholders and decision makers" will be given a drive of an electric car "for the first time". I have already driven an Australian made electric car, but have asked Mitsubishi for a test drive, when theirs comes to Canberra. The i MiEV is an electric version of their petrol engine Mitsubishi i small car. Such retrofits of very small cars have been technically successful, but a marketing failure in the past. The problem is that customers what to show they have an environmental vehicle and that very small conventional cars are already efficient. Toyota's Prius has been a success because it looks different to Toyota's petro cars and is not too small.
"... Do we have sufficient sources of renewable energy to re-charge these cars in growing numbers? Do we have the infrastructure in place to enable full utilisation of electric vehicles? Are the incentives in place to encourage the early adoption of this cutting edge technology? These are the sort of issues that need to be addressed now, in order to create the market and the rationale to bring these cars to sale in this country.

Following display of the i MiEV in February at the Melbourne International Motor Show, Mitsubishi Motors will be moving this ground-breaking technology around the capital cities of Australia in a motorcade of public demonstrations, specialist briefings and individual drive experiences for key government officials, fleet managers, environmental opinion leaders and the media.

Later in the year we will build on this initial exposure program with a diverse range of longer term trials of the i MiEV in government and private fleets across the nation.

With this i MiEV program, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) will be seeking to prove to key stakeholders the true viability of this cutting-edge technology, and in doing so lay the foundations for the proposed sale of the vehicle in the Australian market.

The vehicle As one of the company's initiatives for reducing global warming and dependence on fossil fuels, MMC plans to bring the i MiEV electric vehicle to market in Japan in 2009.

i MiEV utilizes a large-capacity lithium-ion battery system and a compact, high-output electric motor in place of the traditional gasoline power train. ..."

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