Mitsubishi& s electric iMiEV the future is here Review …

27 Фев 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Mitsubishi& s electric iMiEV the future is here Review … отключены
MITSUBISHI i-MiEV – Electric Car Keiko 47kW Auto

Mitsubishi s electric i-MiEV: the future is here

Plug and go. Mitsubishi s i-MiEV has a theoretical maximum range of 160km when fully charged.

Last month, over the course of two hours, I drove 100km in and around Dunedin without adding the slightest toe-scuff to my carbon footprint.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV visited Otago as part of a nationwide programme to evaluate the local potential of all-electric vehicles.

Having spent the night plugged into the national grid, the test car is collected from the local dealer fully charged.

This, I was told, provided a theoretical maximum range of 160km, though this would drop substantially with significant full-power or open-road motoring in the mix.

Although heavily emblazoned to reveal its electric nature on the outside, the i-MiEV — which as you might guess is a variant of Mitsubishi’s iCar — is utterly conventional inside, aside from its instrumentation.

This provides a power-use gauge in place of a rev counter, and a charge indicator where the fuel gauge would normally sit.

Turn the starter knob on the steering column and a beep, followed by the illumination of a green ready light, indicates the i-MiEV is ready to proceed.

A device that looks like a standard automatic gearstick is placed just where you would expect it to be, between the front seats.

In fact, the i-MiEV has just a single fixed ratio that transfers power and torque from the motor to the wheels.

The gearstick is, instead, used to switch between various driving modes.

These comprise D for standard drive, E for economy, and B which introduces maximum regenerative braking effect and, of course, R for reverse.

Engage D, press on the conventional-feeling accelerator (which controls the amount of current being fed to the electric motor), and the i-MiEV glides into motion.

With the electric motor producing maximum torque from minimum revs, acceleration from rest is strong, as well as eerily quiet.

Yet other than the disconcerting near-silence with which it gathers speed, the i-MiEV initially feels, and performs, like a conventional car.

After a few kilometres, differences do become apparent: with a 200kg load of 88 lithium-ion battery cells mounted low on the vehicle’s sub-frame between the front and rear wheels, the i-MiEV has greater underlying solidity than the light supermini on which it is based.

This means a more settled, … ride over small surface imperfections, though it is accompanied by a greater tendency for suspension thump over larger faults in the road surface.

The positioning of the batteries gives the i-MiEV a much lower centre of gravity and superior weight distribution than a normal supermini.

A further significant difference is that with the electric motor mounted in the rear of the vehicle, the i-MiEV is a rear- rather than front-drive machine.

Three Mile Hill strikes me as the ideal place to explore the effect of these differences on the vehicle’s handling, and so the i-MiEV is soon heading up Stuart St and on to Taieri Rd, away from the central city streets that are its natural home.

Due in part to its low-resistance energy-efficient tyres, the i-MiEV doesn’t grip with the tenacity of a true sports car, but its balance descending the twists and turns to the Taieri Plain is fine.

Curious as to how it will handle the rigours of a full-power open-road climb and keen to give Three Mile Hill a final 100kmh blast before the miserly new 80kmh speed limit comes into force, I turn at Whare Flat Rd for a return run.

Operating in full-power D mode, the i-MiEV manages to reach an indicated 99kmh before the first twists and turns (its top speed, apparently, is 130kmh).

By the Taieri Plain lookout, I am hot on the tail of the car ahead.

This mere minute or so of fun consumes three of the car’s 16 bars of electrical charge.

With a further two consumed around town, the i-MiEVs batteries are now somewhere between half and three-quarters charged.

MITSUBISHI i-MiEV – Electric Car Keiko 47kW Auto

I turn down the hill again trying, but failing, to recapture at least one bar on the charge gauge by engaging the transmission’s B mode for maximum regenerative braking effect.

A further 15 minutes of brisk motoring on the Taieri reveal that due to wind and road noise, the i-MiEV is not an especially quiet car at open-road speeds.

That said, one of the curious aspects of the car at speed is that these noise levels do not vary at all when the motor is expending maximum effort.

Near-silence returns trundling through Mosgiel at 50kmh, and it so unnerves me that I turn on the radio for company.

Preparing to join the Southern Motorway at the base of Saddle Hill, the i-MiEV is down to six bars of charge, and with this comes an awful realisation; run short of juice in this vehicle and you can’t haul into the nearest service station for a quick top-up.

In fact, although rapid charges are available at special facilities, the standard recharge on home mains (which require a 15amp fuse to charge the car) involves a six-hour wait.

Mitsubishi has equipped the i-MiEV with a special get-you-home slow mode, but that’s not something I am eager to tap into on the motorway.

After a brief moment of indecision I decide the best way forward is a brave charge (or, more correctly in battery parlance, a discharge) up Saddle Hill.

The i-MiEV responds nicely, and we pass four slower vehicles on the climb.

Never mind that three pass us in turn when I ease back over the crest with only four bars of charge remaining.

Serenity returns in Caversham: three bars of charge still show, the doubtlessly cautious indicator on the trip computer indicates 26km of range still remain, and the vehicle’s satellite navigation system shows that we are now only 3km from the return point of the local dealer.

A couple of minutes later, this taste of what is likely to be a commonplace driving experience of the future is over.

It seems oddly appropriate that, as the car comes to a stop, a radio piece on the time-travelling Doctor Who also concludes.

For me, a brief trip into the near-future has come to an end.

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

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