The electric car battle is now on the move in to a new phase – mainstream.
Until now, electric cars have been very much an oddity. The laughable G-Whiz and the Tesla Roadster are interesting in their own way, but unless you want to look like Noddy’s best friend (G-Whiz) or are happy to have a second-rate Lotus Elise at three times the price (Tesla), there wasn’t much to appeal to the normal car buyer. But it’s changing.
Government incentives around the world (the UK EV incentive is years away), and in particular Japan, are starting to make mainstream EVs a viable option. But they’re like early plasma screen TVs or VHS tapes in 1981 – way too expensive. And until production reaches a critical mass they will stay that way. So if you want EVs to become mainstream you need to offer taxpayer money to cushion the blow a little. And that is what is driving the new launches.
In the UK we’ve recently seen the Citroen ev’ie, a third party retro-fit EV solution for the Citroen C1. Waiting in the wings is the Vauxhall Ampera (although it’s also waiting for technology to make it viable), and car makers from VW to Koenigsegg are working on their vision of the EV. Yesterday we reported on the Subaru Stella EV, which is going on sale in Japan, and you can add to that the Mitsubishi i MiEV.
The Mitsubishi i MiEV is plug-in Li-ion battery powered EV offering a range of around 100 miles from a seven hour charge from a domestic socket, or it can be charged to 80% of capacity if plugged in to a three-phase outlet for 30 minutes. Prices are in the same region as the Subaru Stella EV at around £30,000, but after the Japanese Government’s incentives for zero emission vehicles are taken in to account, the price drops to around £20,000. Still a huge amount for a little car.
But Mitsubishi are being a bit more bullish than Subaru, and are aiming for sales of around 2,000 cars this year, rising to 5,000 a year after that. Most of the initial cars will go to companies and the Government, before consumers start to get their hands on the car later in the year.
Interestingly, Mitsubishi are claiming that the Mitsubishi i MiEV emits around one third the Co2 of its petrol driven equivalent. But we reckon that would only apply if the electricity used came from the cleanest of sources, such as nuclear, solar or wind. If you took the electricity from a coal-fired power plant we reckon the Co2 would actually be higher than the emissions on the petrol car. A disingenuous claim by Mitsubishi, which does nothing to justify the car. Give us the unambiguous facts, and let us make the decision. Don’t obfuscate.
Still, it’s always good to see the boundaries of technology being pushed, even if we don’t necessarily agree with the direction or the justification.