Mitsubishi i-MiEV

What is it?

Australia’s first volume production all-electric vehicle, with zero drive time emissions (depending on how its owners source their electricity, potentially zero emissions, period). First seen on a billboard hovering over the CityLink tollway.

The i-MiEV (which we presume stands for the obligatory “i” followed by Mitsubishi Electric Vehicle) is powered by an electric motor driving the rear wheels that generates 47kW of power and 180Nm of torque, and produces a top speed of 130km/h. As the motor is mounted in line with the wheels, the transfer of energy is direct so no transmission is required. Electricity is stored in a 16kWh bank of lithium-ion batteries that require 7 hours of charging from a standard power point and enable a maximum driving range of 160km.

What do we think?

Normally, we do not look too favourably upon Mitsubishi vehicles. Even aside from their recent and much-publicised financial woes, they generally produce bland cars that are long on features but short on style and driver-enjoyment. In this vein, the i-MiEV has cute exterior styling let down a little by predictably plasticky interior detailing – hardly the looks of a visionary car of the future. Its short range (compared to petrol engine cars) will further limit buyer interest. It is undoubtedly best suited to individuals who make short trips around town or companies whose staff do.

Nevertheless, this car represents a big step in the greener direction almost every car manufacturer is scrambling to take. It’s an important step too: the WWF Energy Report released earlier this year (and discussed in a previous post, here) cited the transition away from liquid fuels to rechargeable solid-state energy storage as critical to an environmentally sustainable future.

What should we learn?

With electric cars by Nissan, Peugeot and Citroen also coming to markets around the world, plus many other manufacturers developing their own soon-to-be-released models, we expect to see an explosion of both electric vehicles and fast-charge electric fuelling stations over coming years. Corporate interest for zero emissions fleet cars will further intensify this development – indeed, Origin Energy, News Limited and Google already have their first i-MiEVs on the road.

For Australia at least, dare we say that Mitsubishi has at last given us something to get excited about?

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