Trio of Electric Cars Only the Beginning for Vancouver
By David Conn
The City of Vancouver and BC Hydro have just taken delivery of three production-ready, highway-capable electric vehicles. On November 20, 2009, Mitsubishi turned over a trio of i-MiEVs, currently being manufactured for the Japanese market.
Vancouver was chosen as the site to debut the cars in North America, due to its early adaptation of vehicle charging infrastructure. The province of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, and BC Hydro recently signed an agreement with Mitsubishi Canada to demonstrate i-MiEVs. The cars will be evaluated in daily use, for their performance and their charging needs.
Leasing advanced EVs for staff use is in line with mayor Gregor Robertson’s ambition to make Vancouver the world’s greenest city by 2020. BC Hydro has made a commitment to prepare electrical infrastructure for a potential transition to electric vehicles. I-MiEVs will be seen in use around town, at the Olympic Games during February, and at special events for the next year or more. Directors and other volunteers from the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association helped to bring about this arrangement by promoting electric vehicles to governments, utilities and the public as clean, practical transportation for the present and future.
Mitubishi calls the i-MiEV the world’s first mass production electric car. Its design is based on the i, a popular gasoline microcar sold only in Japan. The company has built a dedicated factory to make this version, and has worked with partners to produce compact lithium-ion batteries. The company has plans to further develop the car for European and North American markets.
During the debut, held at a Vancouver community centre charging station, some members of the media and VEVA had a chance to see and briefly drive these new fleet additions.
Because of its space-saving layout, with batteries located under the floor, and motor at the rear axle, the little i-MiEV hatchback can seat four large adults. Overall proportions are unusual because of a width limitation on Japan market microcars. It is lighter than most cars sold in North America, at about 2400 lb or 1100 kg. The rear quarters boast two charge ports: one for 110 or 220 volt household plugs, and the other for direct current, three phase 200 volt quick charging. The motor is an permanent magnet synchronous AC unit of 63 hp or 47 kW. The 88 cell batteries carry 330 volts or 16 kWh of energy. According to Mitsubisi, the i-MiEV is twice as efficient as the gasoline i, calculated from well to wheel with Japanese electric power sources. The company estimates range at 75 miles or 120 km. Top speed is given as 81 mph or 130 km/h. The current price in Japan is stated as equivalent to $48,000. A good part of that price would be for the batteries.
The i-MiEV interior is low-key, with cloth upholstery and aluminum trim accents around the cabin. Conveniences include power windows and air conditioning, plus folding outside mirrors. The dash layout is clean, and instruments include a eco gauge. The transmission has only one forward gear, but three operating modes on the selector: power, eco, and heavy regenerative braking. Starting is keyless, with an “ignition” dial on the steering column.
The main driving impression is the smooth, silent power delivery of the electric motor, combined with quick electric steering and the manouverability of the light chassis. While low-speed launch is well governed to save the rear tires, mid-range acceleration is vibrant, with up to 133 lb/ft or 180 Nm on tap. ABS-equipped regenerative brakes handled Vancouver traffic situations with ease.
In the ICE world, most subcompacts host busy little engines, while most smooth, quiet cars are large and ponderous to operate. For some owners, the i-MiEV would embody the best of both types.
It’s safe to predict that these i-MiEVs will pass their evaluation year in Vancouver with flying colors. We’ll see how soon Mitsubishi can prepare and market a North American edition, to compete with other factory EVs that are being announced.
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