A Drive in the Mitsubishi MIEV

Today I was fortunate enough to go for a drive in a MIEV, the single demo unit that is on tour around Australia! This will probably be the first of the new generation of production electric cars (fingers crossed).

Funny how these things come about. I was sitting down to lunch on Sunday talking to one of my wife’s friends, Nina. She mentioned that she was a receptionist at Mitsubishi Adelaide, and told us the staff would be having a test drive of the MIEV today.

Say what? I didn’t even know it was in town. I was pretty excited so Nina kindly asked the Mitsubishi people if I could take a look at the car, and I was invited to join Nina on a test drive! WOW!

So at 3pm today I hopped in my EV and electo-commuted down to Mitsubishi HQ. Just as I entered the car park I saw the little MIEV cruising around. It pulled over as they changed drivers. Suddenly, just as I was passing the MIEV suddenly shot out in front of me – if I hadn’t hit the brakes we might have had the first EV on EV collision. Try explaining that to the bosses back in Japan!

The MIEV had a big sticker “Australia’s first Electric car” on the back. Ahem. Really? Then what, exactly, am I and probably 100 other Australians driving? They can’t even say “first production EV”. Yet (production starts in July).

Anyway Nina and I waited patiently and soon is was our turn. I hopped in the spacious rear of the car (heaps of leg room and height) while the Mitsubishi engineer minding the MIEV (Ashley) showed Nina how it worked. It has an automatic style gear selector but basically its D to drive and off you go. Nina drove us around the nearly empty and spacious Mitsubishi car park, getting up to about 50km/hr. We got a good feel for the acceleration and regenerative braking (both good). It felt nice and light compared to my lead-acid EV, especially over speed bumps. Easy to drive and a nice little car.

The instrumentation was a speedo, a charge/discharge gauge, and a battery bar graph. I missed the presence of an ammeter and voltmeter, but I guess part of the magic of a production EV is abstracting some of the technical detail away from end users.

It has a home charger (overnight) and a fast charger (30 minutes to 80%). The fast charger requires something like 50kW – equivalent to a whole suburban block here. It would make the street lights go dim! Anyway I figure that just like our EV the regular charger is good enough. Filling up an EV is not like filling a petrol car, you don’t stand around waiting for it to fill up. It’s more like a mobile phone, you just plug in and walk away.

After the MIEV Nina asked if she could try my EV! We followed the same course and curiously it felt and drove much the same. Nina said both cars felt great. If my car had Lithium batteries (i.e. equivalent range and weight) there wouldn’t be much in it at all.

The MIEV project is one of the new breed of factory EVs. I really hope it goes into large scale production and turns up in a showroom soon at a reasonable price. Good on Mitsubishi for making this happen.

12 thoughts on “A Drive in the Mitsubishi MIEV”

  1. Where do the MIEV’s motor(s) live?

    I understand why it made sense for you to keep to the drive-train in your (fantastic!) conversion car, but wouldn’t it be sensible to put motors directly onto the drive wheels — or even the hubs — and avoid having a drive-train completely?

    Probably a very naive question, as I have no experience with very large electric motors, but the range of RPMs the wheel has to turn doesn’t seem that large for an electric motor, and it would make full-electric cars even simpler and cheaper, and presumably more efficient.

  2. Good question Leon – I am not sure. I think there is plenty of technical MIEV information on the web. I have heard of some EVs (a mini in particular) with hub motors. I am told that the downside is the weight of wheels makes suspension more complicated for some reason.

    Yes electric motors can cope with a wide range of RPM compared to a petrol engine, so gearboxes aren’t really required.

  3. Hi David,

    I guess it was a nice drive for you with that little MIEV.
    So, when you will take it on to putting to open project just like the Asterisk blackfin? That will be very interesting, I think. Blackfin is for motor control.

    Regards,
    Daniel Chang
    A fan of technology gear

  4. Hi Daniel,

    Actually I am about to do another EV conversion, and will be publishing CAD files for the mechanical side, as well as detailed plans and costing spreadsheets. I have also done a little work on a low cost EV charger, and several other people have been working on controllers -only a simple microcontroller is required rather than a Blackfin. So many parts of EV conversions could be open sourced…

    Cheers,

    David

  5. Hi David,

    On your post, “My current passion is getting more low cost EVs on the road” THAT is really very inspiring to me. It is very quiet now in a early morning and I am thinking what can I do for a meaningful living? And I think that captures my heart. I used to work for a Telecom gear vendor, Adtran in huntsville Alabama, for last few years, but made a change last year for my venture in China. It is about time to return to Alabama now and think about if I can turn your motto to be profitable. That would be fun and nice.

    Let me know, if you could when you enter to a open source project for PHEVs. I buy you a few beers.

    Thank you and Regards,
    Daniel

  6. The biggest issue in good car handling is minimising the bouncing mass. Aluminium wheels do have a sound engineering reason to exist. :-) Hub motors do really bad things for the bouncing mass. Maybe the bouncing does bad things for the motors, too – I’m not sure about that. A motor per wheel is great, minimising all those mechanics running around the car. However, the motors basically need to be on the body, and coupled to the wheels. That means extra clunky mechanics, but it seems unavoidable unless someone can come up with an extremely low mass motor.

    I’m pretty impressed with the compactness of some of the motors going into performance electrics, like the Tesla. They appear to have some heat issues, in spite of the massive flow of cooling air at speed. However, they seem to get a lot of power from a small unit, while claiming a respectable lifetime.

    Steve

  7. Just more on hub motors:
    My eBike has a hub motor and it is really annoying not being able to change down a gear on steep hills when it stalls.
    Another thing is efficiency – ordinary motors are more efficient, and lighter for their power.

  8. I think Leon’s suggestion is a good one – the wikipaedia article about Michelin’s “Active Wheel” concept of putting two motors, regeneration, suspension and braking all inside the wheel could do a lot to simplify EV conversions.

  9. Hello David, just a brief update to let you know that a public “Fast Charging Unit” Media Launch occurred at Mitsubishi head office today. It takes 30 minutes to fully charge i-MiEV owners’ cars and it should give approximately 160km worth of travel from a full charge. Nina Briguglio – Mitsubishi Motors Australia Reception, Adelaide, Clovelly Park.
    Also, thank you for the opportunity you gave me to drive your car “VOLTS!”

  10. 50kw for the fast charger? That sounds way too high… That’d be 200 amps around here… Really?

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