Tokyo Report: Mitsubishi's i MiEV Electric Car
By Bill Moore
If there is any question about whether or not Mitsubishi is serious about the battery electric car, you have but to watch the above video. Of all the vehicles that have been adapted from a conventional gasoline vehicle, the "i" MiEV is perhaps the closest to being not only a practical substitute for a family-sized electric runabout but also one of the neatest integrations of electric car technology I've seen.
Where the "i" normally would have a 660cc turbocharged gasoline engine and fuel tank, the MiEV instead sports a 47 kw permanent magnet synchronous electric motor mounted in the rear, above which is positioned the controller. Buried neatly into the belly pan of the vehicle is a lithium-ion battery pack consisting of 22 large format modules developed by GS Yuasa Corporation in Japan. The 330-volt system has an energy capacity is 16kWh, which is the same capacity as GM is planning for its own 4-passenger, range-extended electric Volt concept car. But where the i MiEV has a projected electric driving range of 100 miles (160km), the Volt's target EV-only mode is 40 miles, with a flexible fuel engine reserve of some 580 additional miles.
The i MiEV is no acceleration sluggard, either. It's electric motor provides 180Nm of torque. Acceleration is 31% quicker and its noise level is some 5db quieter than the typical gasoline minicar. Seating four, it weighs 1,080kg (2380 lbs) and has a top speed of 130km/h (80 mph). Using the Japanese 10-15 mode driving cycle and the country's current grid power mix, which is heavily reliant on nuclear power, the MiEV demonstrates a whopping 72% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the gasoline "i".
In terms of operating costs, Mitsubishi estimates that using off-peak power at night means it will cost 1/9th the cost of fuel for the gasoline model; and even using daytime power rates, it is still one-third the cost of its petroleum-dependent sibling.
The car can be recharged using normal household current at 100 volts (taking approximately 14 hours to recharge), 200 volts (7 hr recharge time) and 3-phase 200 volt. In the latter case, it would take only 30 minutes to recharge the vehicle to 80 percent SOC (state-of-charge) using a Quick-charge system. The charger is built into the vehicle, the 100 volt female plug on the right rear, the 200 volt receptacle on the left rear (see photo below).
Mitsubishi has joint research programs evaluating the everyday practicality and quick-charge compatibility of these carswith three electric utilities in Japan: Tokyo Electric Power, Chugoku Electric Power and Kiyushu Electric Power. The company hopes that it can expand the number of vehicles in operation in Japan to as many as 30 in 2008. Assuming these tests are successful, Mitsubishi hopes to begin mass manufacture of the MiEV initially for the Japanese market in 2009. The company is also looking at offering the vehicle in England.
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