First drive The allelectric Mitsubishi i MiEV

16 Май 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи First drive The allelectric Mitsubishi i MiEV отключены
MITSUBISHI i-MiEV – Electric Car Keiko 47kW Auto

First drive: The all-electric Mitsubishi i MiEV

Barry Park

It’s fairly easy to tell that the all-electric Mitsubishi i MiEV is not quite the same as any other car on our roads.

For starters, there’s its shape. The five-door hatchback has a similar narrow-shouldered, tall shape to some other larger Japanese imports that already sell here, but the i MiEV’s tiny form seems to over-emphasise its odd proportions.

Our test car, the only road-registered one in Australia and described by Mitsubishi as price

less, sits on tiny 15-inch alloy wheels that seem to hang awkwardly off the bottom corners of the monocoque chassis.

Mitsubishi is keen to get the message across that the i MiEV is just a normal car. Certainly, aside from the small visual quirks, it looks enough like one.

It has four doors like a normal car, a standard hatch-back, two front seats and a quite upright rear bench for another two passengers. Mitsubishi says it has the same passive and active safety measures as the 660cc petrol-engined version on which it is based, so is just as safe in a front or side collision.

Walking around the i MiEV, the only telltale sign that it is something different — aside from the bright promotional livery wrapped around it — is the household-ready recharging socket covered with a rubber bung that sits in an exposed recess on the right rear pillar.

Pop open the little door on the left flank where you’d normally expect to see the petrol filler pipe, and instead it’s a specialist socket for the rapid recharging unit.

Plug the i MiEV into a household wall plug and it will recharge the bank of 88 batteries kept under the floor to 100 per cent capacity in about seven hours, while a rapid recharger will fill the batteries to 80 per cent capacity (as a built-in safety measure, it won’t fully charge the battery) in 30 minutes.

Range from the 330-volt system — which powers the rear wheels via an electric motor hidden under the floor of the boot — is put at 160km, with a top speed of 130km/h. There’s no gearbox; just a reduction box that dilutes the speed of the water-cooled electric motor, removing the need for a single gear almost as big as the wheels. The car reverses by flip-flopping the power to run the electric motor backwards.

At the moment, there’s not even a special EV sticker on the number plate that denotes the i MiEV as an electric car, similar to those used for hybrid or LPG-powered cars.

At 1080kg, the i MiEV is about 180kg heavier than its 660cc petrol-engined donor car.

Slip in behind the wheel, and almost everything is familiar. There’s a radio, an air-conditioning system, indicator stalk and the settings for windscreen wipers and lights (some of which is powered using a conventional 12-volt battery). In between the front seats is a very normal-looking gearstick lever, although with D, E and B settings instead of the more familiar D and L.

The D setting is normal driving mode, which allows the i MiEV to coast to a stop, feeding minimal energy from braking back into the bank of batteries. E is for economy mode, that will use a little more engine braking to feed a little more power back into the batteries. The B setting selects maximum regenerative braking.

Also of note is the uninspired interior. Drab plastics, conventional analogue gauges and sombre cloth trim don’t do a lot to attract people to what in all other respects is being presented as a cutting-edge car.

Starting the i MiEV is a familiar routine — turn the ignition switch one click past the accessories mode, crank it like a normal car, and that’s it. A small, green READY indicator lights up on the dash showing the system is ready to roll.

Our time behind the wheel was limited to a 10-minute steer along a pre-selected drive route around Adelaide’s inner-city streets.

MITSUBISHI i-MiEV – Electric Car Keiko 47kW Auto

It was enough time, though, to assess how the i MiEV would perform in urban duties.

The electric motor may only produce 47kW — about the same as a decade-old Toyota Corolla — but its biggest drawcard is a hefty 180Nm of torque from the instant the car starts rolling.

Acceleration, then, is silky smooth and accompanied by a slight whine that rises in pitch, with speed building at a pace that’s adequate for keeping up with the cut and thrust of city traffic. As there are no gears, there’s no interruption. A sweeping needle gauge to one side of the speedometer shows if the electric motor is drawing power — denoted by a green zone — or feeding power back into the battery — denoted by a blue zone.

Flicking through the driving modes, there’s no real difference between the normal driving mode and the economy setting. Moving the selector into B did result in a marked increase in the amount of braking coming from the engine alone, causing the indicator needle to fall deeper into the blue zone.

At speed, the i MiEV is surprisingly quiet; a distinct contrast to past experience with electric cars. There’s no noise other than a slight whine from the spinning motor and the slight rush of wind around the car’s low-drag form.

Around Adelaide’s city streets, the suspension provided a good ride with excellent cornering. Our only criticism of it is levelled at its performance over speed bumps, where the lightweight i MiEV bounded quite harshly over the surface.

Our short loop stripped one of the 16 segments off the LED gauge showing the remaining charge in the batteries. Each segment represents about 10km range.

Ironically, at the end of our drive the i MiEV was taken back to the semi-trailer that forms part of its travelling roadshow for a quick recharge so that local politicians could take their turn behind the wheel. Providing the power? A diesel-engined generator.

So, is Australia ready for an electric car such as the i MiEV? Yes and no. Yes, as the lines are fast blurring between the drive experiences of electric and conventionally-engined vehicles to the point that we shouldn’t notice much difference behind the wheel.

And no, because in some respects the i MiEV shows that rather than reinventing the car for the future, we’re still just giving it a fancy name.

MITSUBISHI i-MiEV – Electric Car Keiko 47kW Auto
MITSUBISHI i-MiEV – Electric Car Keiko 47kW Auto
MITSUBISHI i-MiEV – Electric Car Keiko 47kW Auto
MITSUBISHI i-MiEV – Electric Car Keiko 47kW Auto
MITSUBISHI i-MiEV – Electric Car Keiko 47kW Auto

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