A fleet of electric cars arrived in Ireland last week in advance of going on sale later this year. The ESB took possession of a dozen Mitsubishi I Mievs, which will be available for around €25,000 each by Christmas. If the Sunday Tribune's test drive last week is anything to go by, it will be the quietest driving experience imaginable. A passenger in the back seat could hear you whisper as you drive, such is the eerie silence of the new car.
The interior is far from luxurious. It is simple, minimalistic and small – yet more spacious than the futuristic exterior suggests.
There is no ignition: the car simply turns on. Reach for a gearbox and you won't find one; the I Miev is automatic, with options for normal driving or, for the more environmentally aware, eco driving.
On the road, the I Miev is satisfyingly quick. It can zoom around other cars in traffic with rapid ease, with an impressive rate of acceleration. The batteries, which are located under the driver's seat, are the same kind that powers a phone or a laptop.
One of the main problems potential purchasers have raised about the new vehicle is 'range anxiety', the fear that the battery will suddenly die in the middle of the M50. The ESB points out that over 3,500 so-called 'juice-points' are to be installed countrywide.
Where a driver would normally find a petrol pump, there is a plug socket, which is slightly disconcerting the first time you see it. Fully charging the battery would, on average, take around seven hours, while that full charge would bring you approximately 130 kilometres.
It is expected the cars will be available to the public by the end of 2010, and to allay the fears of potential buyers when it comes to the new battery-powered motors, the ESB's Paul Mulvaney points out: "Your car needs petrol or it won't go, so similarly, the electric car needs electricity or it won't go. It's the same concept, different method."
The only strong concern that arose from the jaunt is the question of what would happen when four or five cars pull up to these charging points, all waiting in line for what could be hours to charge their cars. Apart from that, the electric cars are surprisingly normal and very easy to drive, though a whole city whirring around in total silence remains a curious thought.
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This review is sketchy and vague and is silent on the obvious and well tested defence against battery failure: the fully charged spare.
Before a potential buyer could decide on this innovation, we would need to know the size, weight and cost of a spare battery, together with an evaluation of how easy an average driver would find the task of changing a drained battery for a fully charged spare plus how long a battery would hold charge while not in use. Heavy users of digital cameras and some mobile phone users require a spare charged battery if they are not to be left without power. The parallel with the electric car is obvious.
The addition of these facts would turn this into a useful review. Without them, the article is inconclusive and of limited value. I hope you will address this lacuna in the next issue.