Friday, May 20, 2011

electric car update

It's been about a month since my last update, which means that we're a bit over half way through our three month government trial of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV - a wholly electric car. We've been using the car almost exclusively this past month - to get a good idea of what it would be like to own it. We continue to use it a lot around our local area - picking up and dropping off kids and shopping. It's really perfect for this application.

"Refuelling"
The first major challenge for this car was getting us all to the airport and back. This car has a "fuel" gauge like any other car, except that what it's showing you is the amount of electric charge available. Our first trip to the aiprort took half a tank of charge. This was a little concerning as we aren't able to recharge anywhere except our house. How on earth would we get home with more weight in the car (two extra people) without running out of charge? We flew off for a few days and came back to hop in the car and see how far we would get. We had plans to "abort the mission" when we got close to empty - park the car somewhere and catch a cab home. On the way home, we decided to use the ECO mode (instead of normal DRIVE mode) - this reduces your overall speed considerably, but does conserve energy. After a slow trip on the Tulla Freeway (about 90kmph was our top speed) we made it home. At most, this was a 60km round trip. We were a little frustrated - you should be able to get comfortably to and from the airport from the inner eastern suburbs.

We had to do the same trip to the airport the following weekend. This time we used ECO mode on the trip to the airport, and DRIVE on the way back. We had more charge left than last time! The important thing about this trip is that we realised what an important role level ground makes to fuel efficiency. The trip to the airport is almost all uphill. The trip home is almost all downhill. So, in calculating where you are going, these factors need to be taken into account. The verdict ... this car needs a much longer range.

The other thing we've concluded is that you need to be able to just plug the car into any powerpoint to recharge. At the moment, the trial has partnered with BetterPlace to provide charging stations. However, you need a special plug (and the station of course) to recharge. There is an adaptor for a powerpoint, but it must be 15 amps (normal powerpoints are 10 amps). I get the use of dedicated charging stations for public places, but there has to be a fallback (other than calling a tow truck) if you run out of charge.

The charging station
OK. Now for some good news. We got our first electricity bill since we've had the car this week. To be honest, I've been dreading this bill - I had visions of a huge number staring back at me. As I said, we've been using this car almost exclusively this past month, which means fully charging it every 3-4 days. We do always charge at night, which means we're using off-peak power, but each charge takes about 6 hours. It was not possible to see any real increase in our electricity bill at all (maybe $20). I am impressed - this was not what I expected at all.

Thanks for all of your questions and interest in this car and the trial. As I mentioned in previous posts, we're not being paid in any way to participate, so our review of this car is as we experience it on a day-to-day basis. This car/technology has such potential, and hopefully feedback from this trial (including your comments) will make it more practical and viable.

Have a great Friday!


7 comments:

Wendy said...

Wow, Nic---this is fascinating! And it's a marvel that you couldn't see any change in your electric bill...

allison tait said...

What a great community service you're providing! Can't wait to see how the rest of the trial goes.

kirsty@shoproomstudio said...

thanks so much for sharing all of this information, it's so very interesting!

x

Mary said...

How cool! Great to hear about the cost after a month of use!

Naturally Carol said...

If it takes 6 hours to charge..even having charge up power points on the way to somewhere is not much help is it? I cannnot imagine people waiting around 6 hours at a filling station before they complete a journey..like to the other side of the city!!

Kylie said...

What a great idea for a run around town car - I am paying a fortune in pertol at the moment and the only place I go is school drop offs and home and to the shops on the odd day. I chew through a tank in a fortnight - good buy almost $100

Gina said...

I've had this post starred to come back to for a while now! Very interesting to think about the logistics of such a car and what would need to be put in place or developed to make it viable. Oh how I wish a useable solar-powered vehicle could get up and running! We will have to bite the bullet and get a car in a few months I think...