(NaturalNews) Mitsubishi Motor Company is continuing to refine its all-electric sub-compact car dubbed iMiev (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle), and plans to begin sales to the general public in the latter half of 2009.
This sub-compact car is about the size of a "light car" in Japan ("keijidousha") with an engine displacement of up to 660cc. It has seating for four, but in reality it's adequate for two medium-sized adults in the front seats and two small children, or better yet a few bags of groceries, in the back seat.
Where you'd see the gasoline tank filler cap on an ordinary car, you find the outlet for charging the iMiev. It can be charged overnight from an ordinary home 100-volt outlet; if you have the electric company wire you up a 200-volt outlet (until now used mainly for large electric appliances like large air conditioners and electric ranges), the charging time of the iMiev is cut in half. Special quick-charge outlets at gasoline stations, where you could get about 80% charged in 20 minutes or so, are envisioned for the future. Mitsubishi says you can drive 160km (100 miles) on a full charge under optimal conditions.
The iMiev produces no exhaust, and the overall greenhouse gas load produced from the electricity it uses is said to be well under a third of what a typical sub-compact gasoline car produces. The electric engine makes a barely audible whirring sound, so after you turn the key to start it, a chime lets you know that the engine is running and the car is ready to go.
At the same time, a few prototypes are already running on the streets of Tokyo where the latest extreme testing is taking place. One involves driving through streets flooded 20 to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 inches) deep in order to see whether anything will go wrong with the all-electric vehicle. It's also being put through extreme cold temperature testing at minus 10 degrees Celsius (about 14 degrees Fahrenheit); the power of any battery is weakened by low temperatures, and especially starting at extremely cold temperatures seems to be a worry for the company.
The best part is the cost of running the iMiev: the electricity it uses is estimated to be about one yen per kilometer. One hundred yen for 100km, or about $0.97 (yes, ninety-seven cents at the current exchange rate!) for 62 miles of running. Look at the newest gasoline sub-compact cars in Japan that get up to 50 miles per gallon of gasoline, and you can see that the comparison is mind-boggling (gasoline in Japan right now is "only" about $4.60 a gallon, because a special gasoline tax expired, but will rise again to about $5.50 a gallon when the ruling party holds a re-vote and reinstates the tax). And as the cost of gasoline continues to rise in the future, the difference will become even greater.
Of course you can't pack up the family, the dog, and all the camping gear into the iMiev for a weekend getaway, but for a daily commute for one or two persons, or for everyday shopping and other errands, it might be ideal.
How much will the iMiev cost? Nobody knows for sure yet, but the first two or three years will probably show a sticker price of around $25,000. That's more than most people are willing to pay for a small car. However, there are rumors that the Japanese government will subsidize 50% of the purchase cost because the vehicle is considered a "zero-emission" car; if this is true, Mitsubishi could see high sales right from the start.
As Toyota has been the leader in hybrid technology in Japan, and has had the Prius, the first gasoline-electric hybrid car, on sale to the general public for ten years already, many Japanese are surprised that Mitsubishi will be the first company to sell an all-electric car.
On a personal note, I recently gave up my car, which I didn't use so much because I work at home (actually "live at work" is more like it), and bought a bicycle, mainly to help stop polluting the Earth. I'm now enjoying savings of around $300 a month on various car taxes, insurance, parking fees, and gasoline, and am getting a lot more exercise and sunshine than before. If I find I really need a car for commuting in the future, a small all-electric car will be the first thing I'll consider buying.
NHK TV News, Gifu local edition, 21 April 2008
The Japan Times
About the author
John H. Cole has been editing medical manuscripts for publication in mainstream U.S. and European medical journals for the past 15 years in Japan. He also has a small English school in Gifu City, Japan. He believes that natural foods, superfoods, herbs, exercise, sunshine, good sleep, and avoidance of pollution are the answers to most people's health problems. He is a friend of nature.