Friday, April 03, 2009

Mitsubishi i MiEV electric car in Canberra

Mitsubishi i MiEV Mitsubishi Australia CEO and President , Robert McEniry is just introduced the i MiEV electric car at the Boathouse Restaurant in Canberra. He claimed this was the world's first production electric car and had now been prepared for sale in Australia (not just a handmade prototype). Mr. McEniry did not shy away from the fact that because Australian electricity is generated from polluting coal. Dr. Peter Pudney from University of South Australia is then going to talk about the issues with electric cars. A little later we get to drive the car I have already driven a hand made Australian made electric car. The i MiEV is an electric version of the Mitsubishi i "K class" small car.

The 88 batteries for the car are lithium ion. One issue is the life of the batteries. The Nickel-metal hydride batteries in the Toyota Prius have lasted well.

The i MiEV is a very compact four seat car. Unlike most small cars, the engine is under the back seat, driving the rear wheels. The electric version has the batteries and electric motor in place of the fuel tank and petrol engine. The car has some addition CAM bus ecus to control the electric motor, with redundancy for reliability.

It struck me that the i MiEV has a similar layout to the Tata Nano. India already makes the REVA Electric Car. Assuming that Tata can meet demand for their petrol version, an electric Nano would seem a logical future development.

However, the major competitor for the i MiEV are inexpensive conventionally powered cars. To make such cars viable there will need to be sufficient renewable energy available and a sophisticated greenhouse gas policy to give incentives for its use. What also may help is a computer controlled smart grid to optimise the charging the cars. Smart transport systems would help optimise the use of the cars.

One example would be to use the cars with a share program such as that from GoGet. The share cars are parked at reserved parking spaces in the inner suburbs. It would make sense to equip these parking spaces with recharging stations. This would maximise the use of the cars.

There were staff of both the federal environment and innovation departments at the briefing. Hopefully they are not considering giving Mitsubishi a subsidy for the car in Australia. There are a lot better ways Australia could spend its money in the national economic and environmental interests.

10 comments:

Sapoty said...

It wont be hard to sell when post-peak-oil starts to really bite in a year or two. Coal burning is not a problem if you pay the extra 20% to get wind powered electricity. What price will it be? Maybe I'll just get an electric scooter e.g. beyond-oil.com until the price comes down on the cars.

Tom Worthington said...

Blogger Sapoty said April 03, 2009 1:49 PM:

"It wont be hard to sell when post-peak-oil starts to really bite in a year or two..."

I have a petrol car about the same size as the Mitsubishi iMiEV. It uses so little fuel, that even if the price went up to $20 a litre, this would not be a significant part of the cost of running the car.

If I had a larger car, then the first option would be to change to a more fuel efficient one. Other options would be LPG or compressed natural gas. A pure electric car would not be a viable alternative at present.

Sapoty said...

Tom said... Other options would be LPG or compressed natural gas. A pure electric car would not be a viable alternative at present.

It sounds like CO2 emissions don't come into your field of consideration, Tom. Are you concerned that there will be no Arctic sea ice in about 4 years? Does it concern you that this is modeled to push Arctic temperatures up about 4 degrees? Do you worry about the potential massive rise in sea level as the Greenland icecap melts? Ever played Russian Roulette?

Tom Worthington said...

Sapoty said April 03, 2009 7:57 PM :

"Are you concerned that there will be no Arctic sea ice ..."

Yes I am concerned. But an electric car will cost three or four times as much as a petrol powered one and produce about the same CO2 pollution, when charged from Australia's existing coal fired electricity supply. There are better investments to reduce greenhouse gasses.

One thing I am doing is teaching students how to reduce emissions using computers and telecommunications. Apart from reducing the electricity used by computers we can make energy use more efficient in other sectors by using computers and the Internet. In the case of transport we can replace car trips with tele-commuting. The course itself is an example of that, with the students able to do the course via the web, not having to travel to a classroom.

In the case of cars, electric ones can be made more practical by having computer managed share cars. In this way one expensive electric car can be shared by many people, thus making it affordable. Public transport can also be made more desirable with computer assistance.

It should be possible to cut emissions by 15% with these techniques. I realize a 15% is not enough, but this cut can be made relatively easily without significant cost or much new infrastructure. In my submission to the Australian Senate I proposed a 25 to 50% cut in emissions.

Sapoty said...

Tom Said..."an electric car will cost three or four times as much as a petrol powered one and produce about the same CO2 pollution, when charged from Australia's existing coal fired electricity supply."

I like to assume that no one would be silly enough to go to the expense of buying an electric car and not using renewable electricity to charge it.

Hand made converted electric cars cost about $15,000 more than the original car, assuming Lithium batteries are used. So a production model would have a smaller margin than that.

If the driver does not have to pay for the battery then the electric car will be cheaper than the ICE car. As I understand it that is what Better Place is aiming for.

Also the difference in price between the fuel and the charge can be used to offset the battery cost.

I think fully electric vehicles will be a great solution once the charging and battery exchange systems are in place. Meanwhile an electric vehicle can be used on all the trips up to 60 to 100 km and a rental ICE vehicle can be used for longer trips. The rental cost will be covered by the fuel savings from the electric vehicle.

Tom Worthington said...

Mitsubishi has announced a deal with Vancouver and a hydro power company to test the i MiEV electric vehicle. This makes a lot more sense than running them on Australian coal fired power.

Sapoty said...

Tom said: This makes a lot more sense than running them on Australian coal fired power.

I don't understand why you raise the coal fired power issue. I don't think anyone in their right mind would consider running an electric vehicle on coal fired power. That would be like rolling in the mud in your party gear.

I would like to see you emphasising the availability of wind and solar as choices for home electricity supply. Forget coal, its a dinosaur.

Tom Worthington said...

Sapoty said April 07, 2009 11:46 AM:

"I don't understand why you raise the coal fired power issue ..."

Most of the electricity in Australia, as in many countries, is from burning coal. That use of coal is increasing.

If electric cars are to be run from renewable energy, then this will require investment new generating capacity. That new capacity will not reduce, or even stop the increase, in pollution from the coal fired generators. All the new capacity will be needed for the electric cars.

It would be better for the environment to invest in renewable energy to replace coal, instead of spending it on charging electric cars.

Carbon emissions from transport can be reduced in other, cheaper ways.

Sapoty said...

Tom said:
"If electric cars are to be run from renewable energy, then this will require investment new generating capacity. That new capacity will not reduce, or even stop the increase, in pollution from the coal fired generators. All the new capacity will be needed for the electric cars."

My understanding is that if a household subscribes to 100% renewable power then the supplier is required to match all their power from renewable sources.

So then lets say charging your car takes half your electricity bill, then the other half is for your household. That's great! You are forcing a nice big investment in new wind turbines or panels, etc. Also you will be saving money not having to buy fuel at $5/L (after peak oil).

In my opinion, when people realise that the coastline and half the major cities are going under the waves, then coal fired power stations will be made illegal and shutdown. At that point, the more renewable generating capacity we already have installed, the better!

Sylvia said...

The average person doesn't care where the power to recharge an e car comes from. Emissions from car exhausts would be greatly reduced should the average worker take on e vehicles.
As far as major power sources go, its better to look at Hydro or Wind, get rid of coal. Why do people over complicate things.
Electric cars are the way of the future, lets get over that hurdle first, make them affordable to everyone, in particular, first car buyers.