Since 2008, we have been covering the electric vehicle market, and things have certainly changed since then. Back in the day, an electric vehicle startup, Tesla Motors, perked international interest with the Tesla Roadster. Then dozens of concepts, specialized automakers, and eletrofitters rolled in. I remember when it was only the little guys like ZAP, Think, Tesla, Zenn, etc. We’ve seen exotic supercars and concepts like the Eliica, Aptera, and Lightning GT, and low speed, neighborhood electric vehicles like the BG-100 and REVA. Some came to fruition, some did not. This international attention garnered the interested of the major automakers like Ford, GM, Nissan, and Mitsubishi. These majors not only created concepts, but have begun delivering electric vehicles in mass. Here are a few fully charged, highway capable 2012 models for the masses that you can order for delivery right now. In the US, these all qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit.
The 2012 Ford Focus EV is one of my favorites because, from the outside, you can’t even tell that it is an EV. The Ford Focus EV is built on the same glider as the third generation ICE model. The EPA rated its range at 76 miles per charge and a fuel economy of 105 MPG equivalent. Production began in December 2011, in Wayne, Michigan.
I had a chance to drive the first model of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV at the 2010 New York Auto Show. I preferred it too the Mini-E, because it had more natural coasting and braking, and the battery was tucked under the carriage instead of being jammed in the back hatch area. On the Japanese test cycle, the vehicle has a 100 mile charge, but the EPA, the harsh critics they are, rated it at merely 62 miles. Over 20,000 of these little buggies have been sold worldwide. Prices vary widely regionally and so do tax incentives. In the Japanese market, the i-Miev is only $23,000 after subsidies, in Europe and the US it’s about $30,000, and $50,000 in Australia.
I have already spotted a few 2012 Nissan Leafs in the wild already. Although, I don’t know why so many people choose the seemingly trademark, “blue ocean” color. The EPA rated this hatchback at 73 miles-per-charge. After tax incentives in the US, the price is solidly below $30k at $27,000. Nissan is claiming an increase in range and a pretty significant decrease in price in the next model year.
We are all still wrapping our heads around a company from Palo Alto, California won the Motor Trend Car of the Year with the 2012 Tesla Model S. Not Detroit, Japan, or Germany, but essentially a company founded by a guy who made his first millions from PayPal. The award really means something though: that technology, innovation, and thinking outside the box in the automotive world can really evolve the industry in ways not possible through traditional thinking. Motor Trend states the $50,000 supercar (after US tax credits) “smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox, and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius.” This simply was not possible before.
I had the pleasure of attending the EV Press Conference on the second press day of the 2010 New York Auto Show. The event was right after Mitsubishi’s press conference, filled with loud indie rock, light shows, and the big reveal of their new crossover. The EV press event was much more low key, and really a sequence of rapid fire, five minute speeches from five EV companies. Amp Electric Vehicles, Mini, Mitsubishi, Think, and PEP Stations all gave a quick rundown of their vehicles, goals, and innovations.
First up was Steve Burns, CEO of Amp Electric Vehicles. Amp does high quality conversions of domestic ICE vehicles to 100% electric drive. The Midwestern team is currently converting the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox as well as 2007-2009 Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice convertibles. They brought a converted Sky and Equinox, which were definitely the sexiest looking electric cars driving around at the show.
Anyways, Steve Burns focused on the Equinox, a SUV that truly shows that electric vehicles are just as capable as their internal combustion predecessors. The Amp Equinox crossover has a 150 mile range, 90 mile per hour top speed, and a 0-60 mph acceleration of 8 seconds. Burns attributed this exceptional performance to the Remy electric motor. Remy has made over a billion motors of all sorts around the world, and they are bringing their legacy to the electric drivetrain. It is exciting to see established internal combustion companies adapt and apply their expertise to electric drive applications. The Amp presenters suspiciously omitted the price of their Equinox, so I’ll include it here: $50,000, more than twice the price of a 2010 Chevy Equinox.
Next up, a BMW spokesman gave a short presentation for the Mini E. He briefed us on the specs for the highway capable EV with a 100 mile range, and “go kart-like handling.” The Mini E is already being leased to select drivers, and he announced they have extended the lease for another year, with over 50% of the leasers renewing. More interestingly, he noted BMW’s Project i. Which will catalyze more applications of electric drive trains in BMW vehicles, like the 1 Series coupe. They already revealed the BMW ActiveE concept at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. The ActiveE will pack a 170 horsepower electric motor in a 1 Series, to give it similar specs to the Mini E, but lets hope they give us some trunk space.
Product Planning Manager, Brian Arnett gave us the rundown on their plans for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Sounds like they are pretty far along already in the east, with 1,400 cars sold to Japanese fleets. The 80 mile range highway capable EV will retail in Japan this month. Mitsubishi hopes to introduce the the i-MiEV to the US in Fall 2011. They are already creating partnerships with companies in the US, like Best Buy (Geek Squad cars), and California Electric (for EV infrastructure).
John Harmon represented Think North America next. The company plans to begin manufacturing the THINK City in Elkhart, Ind. beginning in early 2011. The Think City will have a range of 100 miles, and a top speed of 70 mph. The two seater also has a large cargo area in its recently redesigned rear.
Finally, Brady Blaine, Vice President of Pep Stations, elaborated on their goal to supply America with an electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This is obviously easier said than done, but the premise is simple. PEP (Plug-in Electric Power) has designed a simple charging station they hope to sell to malls, rest centers, gyms, and everywhere else people park their cars. Patrons can park their electric cars, charge up in 1 to 5 hours, and drive away with a full battery.
In summary, the EV press conference characterized how the electric vehicle industry is slowly making its way to the mainstream. Cars like the i-MiEV, Think City, and Nissan Leaf are practically designed, have ample cargo space, and have more than enough range for 90% of Americans. These cars will be on our roads, in our showrooms, and charging in our garages within the next year. The concept cars of two years ago are finally becoming a reality, and I was thankful to see and drive them at the 2010 New York Auto Show.
Usually, at auto shows you will find abstract concepts of electric cars that are so far fetched, nobody takes them seriously. This year at the New York Auto Show, companies like Mitsubishi, Mini, Think, and Amp Motorworks are changing the regular programming by providing press and public test drives of highway capable electric vehicles. In the 2010 auto show, electric cars like the Mini E and the i-MiEV are already on the road, leased to select test markets and certain fleet and government patrons.
The electric vehicle test drive track is in the EV Pavilion at the back of the bottom floor, but it will surely be a crowd pleaser when the auto show opens up to the public April 2-11. When I arrived, only 2 electric vehicles, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Mini E, were circling the winding track. I had to “sign my life away” on some contract that relieved them of any responsibility for any bodily harm I might inflict on myself while I played Dukes of Hazard with the EVs. They also made me swear not to go take it over 15 mph. It was an indoor go kart track, after all. Then I was ready to drive some electric powered machines.
First up was the Mini E. This mighty mouse has a good amount of power, 200 HP, and that is with a 100% torque electric motor, so it really picks up. With an electronically regulated top speed of 95 mph, and a 150 mile range (told 100 by the spokeswoman, oddly, perhaps realistically), this car can get you anywhere you need to go, fast.
Here is what I didn’t like. I sat in the driver’s seat, looked back, and saw this:
This is about neck high, right behind the drivers seat. It is the battery pack. Not only is this a two-seater, but it is a two-seater with the storage space of a Vespa. I contemplated the Mini E’s practicality watching press groups load up the 5-passenger i MiEV.
Moment of truth.
I took the car out of park, following the instructions of the Mini spokeswoman in the passenger seat. No lurch. The car does not lurch forward in drive like your typical ICE vehicle. Once you get moving, drives much like a car in first gear all the time, meaning it is very torque-ee. You accelerate, let off the gas (electricity) and you rapidly decelerate because of the strong regenerative braking. I had heard about this being an issue with the Mini E, so it was pretty much what I expected. It makes me wonder if the big sacrifice in momentum is worth the electricity regained.
Anyway the car accelerated great on the miniature straightaway. I would love to see what the Mini E could do on an interstate on-ramp instead of an indoor track.
Honestly, I am still uncomfortable pronouncing this one aloud (i Meeve or i Me-ehv).
But I am picking this one as the winner in this EV battle. Here’s why:
Yes, this is a fully equipped, four door family EV. The cabin was so spacious, I could not believe they fit a lithium ion battery in there, which is hidden flat under the car.
This will not compete with the Mini E on the track though. It will get you 0-60 in 13 seconds, has a top speed of 80 mph, and has a 100 mile range. But I could not even fit my backpack into the Mini E with another person in the car. I could get married, have a couple kids, and take them all to soccer practice in the i-MiEV. The i-MiEV makes such good use of the space it has, and is just smartly designed for what it is, a family commuter vehicle.
Not only is the i MiEV more spacious, but it rides more comfortably too. The car creeps forward in drive like a traditional vehicle, and the regenerative braking is much more natural. The car kind of coasts when you lift off of the accelerator. The interior space and user friendly drive make the i-MiEV the winner in this EV showdown.
Anyone who happens to be in the area of New York City the next few days should definitely come to the Javits Center to get a first hand experience in these fascinating new electric vehicles that are becoming more and more real every day. I’ll leave you with a rough video I took of some of the action on the track later in the day:
Stay tuned for upcoming articles detailing electric car test drives and press conferences from the 2010 New York Auto Show.
I just test drove the Mini E and the Mitsubishi iMiev, and I can honestly say I was impressed with both, but one was the clear favorite. A thorough review will be coming soon.
I will also write a full review of my test drive of the new Amp Motorworks Electric Equinox. A 100% electric SUV.
Thanks for reading!
The Mitsubishi iMiev is a highway capable, compact electric car that will get have a 75-100 mile ev range and a top speed of 80mph. It is uncertain if the iMiev will reach the US, but it is expected to be released for commercial sale in Japan by 2009. Test fleets are already on the road in Japan and will soon hit the streets of Iceland. Nearly all of Icelands power comes from geothermal and hydro power; electric cars are the logical next step in being emission free and energy independant.
The iMiev is expected to be priced at around $37,000. Should the car ever reach the US, I would expect it to be successful in urban areas and among the well endowed environmentally conscious. The car shares very similar ev performance and price range as the GM EV1, a car that was leased in California over ten years ago. I don’t see why recent technological advances are not translating to higher ev ranges than 75 miles.
Here is an informational Popular Mechanics video: