Mitsubishi i-MiEV begins trials

The first zero-emissions fully electric city car to be used on the government-funded Technology Strategy Board (TSB) user trials has begun testing in the West Midlands.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle), which has a top speed of 81mph, a range of 100 miles and can be trickle charged from flat to full in seven hours, is participating in a UK-wide project to test electric and ultra-low-emission vehicles.

Quentin Willson, one of the i-MiEV drivers participating in the trials, said:  ‘The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is a forerunner of a transport revolution that eventually will change the world. At last here’s an electric car that doesn’t look like a church pew, seats four, does 80mph and costs less than a quid to charge.’

Over the next 12 months, keys to 25 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs will be given to test drivers by the Arup-led CABLED (Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Vehicle Demonstrators) consortium, who are tasked with managing the £25m TSB Ultra Low Emission Vehicle Demonstrator Competition.

The i-MiEV trials are worth £15m and will see 110 vehicles tested on the roads of Birmingham and Coventry. Throughout the UK, a total of 340 vehicles will be tested using funding from the TSB and £2.5m from regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands.

Neil Butcher, Arup’s project leader of the CABLED consortium said: ‘Less than one per cent of the vehicles registered every year in the UK are electric and most of these are currently used in London. We think that by 2020 low-carbon cars will be commercially viable and it’s important that we start to understand the public’s reaction and provide the necessary infrastructure to prepare for this.’

He added: ‘The launch is a landmark occasion for the UK automotive industry and this project will begin to examine the points where the vehicles meet the built environment – energy generation, battery charging and driver behaviour. This is an important first step on our roads to a low-carbon future.’

The consortium will also benefit from a commitment to developing the necessary infrastructure to coordinate the trials from E.ON, Birmingham City Council and Coventry City Council, who will provide electrical charging points for vehicles across the two cities and access to Birmingham University’s hydrogen-refuelling station.

Throughout the trials, Aston University will be analysing and reporting the conclusions from the data generated by the vehicles.

Iain Gray, chief executive of the TSB, said: ‘The journey towards low-carbon transport will not be easy, but the demonstrator programme is the biggest project of its kind to date and is a major step in the right direction.’

Other vehicles to be rolled out for trials in 2010 will include Smart ed, Tata Indica, Microcab, Land Rover Range E and LTI.