The idea of the electric car is nothing new. It has actually been around for quite some time. In fact, according to a few new rumors and The Telegraph, the first electric car idea came from way back in 1884 with a vehicle created by British inventor Thomas Parker. The electric car, in theory, is one of the greatest ideas to ever hit the automotive world. No emissions, no instant torque, and no obnoxiously loud noise, plus there is little chance that a fire could occur in the event of a wreck. So what went wrong?
Well, as great as the idea was there are a few problems that hamper the car’s progress. The batteries have to be special and rather heavy; no double A is powerful enough for a moving vehicle. Modern cars weigh a lot and they need to be able to travel at high rate of speeds on the motorway, so the batteries need to be strong and luckily, there are a few companies working to make these machines possible.
Japanese automaker Nissan will soon release the Leaf, a pure electric vehicle that will surely change the way we think about modern cars, especially for city use. The Leaf isn’t the only electric car in the world. There are few others you might see roaming around the world’s many streets in a few years. These include the Mitsubishi i-MiEV , the Mini E , and the Smart ED . These are all real cars that you won’t be able to buy if you live in America, at least not yet. They have passed crash tests and offer the same sort of features that you will need in order to go on a road trip.
Hit the jump to read on.
Remove all the annoying stickers and the smug attitude and these cars could pass for normal. There are no solar panels or extension cords. Sure the i-MiEV is a bit odd looking. In fact, it looks like a curvaceous Smart. The Mini E looks like a Mini and the Smart looks like a Smart. There is nothing out of the ordinary with these machines.
All three of these cars use the latest lithium-ion battery packs, almost like the ones you will find in your laptops. The Mitsubishi places its batteries right above the rear axle and it produces 47KW, around 57 horsepower. That tremendous power helps the car hit 60 miles per hour in 13 seconds and on to a top speed of 87 miles per hour, which is about as fast as you would want to go in this kind of car. Sure, we can joke about the speed, but with nearly 133 pound-feet of torque available instantly and at any rpm with four available seats and a decent sized trunk, this is a great car for town use.
The Smart is a little worse, as it has a smaller motor and a terribly slow top speed. The Smart engineers have put the battery pack under the trunk floor and it cranks out 30KW, or 40 horsepower. At around 62 miles per hour you will have reached the car’s top speed, so this is not a motorway cruiser. There are a few things that make the Smart neat though. Drivers will be able to check the charge of their car with their iPhones, that way they know when it’s time to head home to charge up the buggy.
The Mini E is the car that seems to make the most sense for buyers. When you look at pictures of the car, it’s hard to tell that this car doesn’t run on a normal engine. Even the front seat shots don’t give it away. Of course, with all those batteries the car is bound to be heavy. The Mini’s batteries produce around 150KW, which is nearly 200 horsepower. The Mini will hit 62 miles per hour in 8.5 seconds, thanks to that monstrous 162 pound feet of torque.
It shouldn’t be hard to imagine that these three electric cars will be fun to drive around town, especially the Mini. You will be able to drag race mopeds and it might actually be quite the battle. Imagine how much the women will love you after you out drag a moped. You will be able to drive around town, racing bikes and people on the sidewalk all day. Until, of course, the battery loses its juice and you are left on the side of the road.
The Smart will go about 80 miles on a charge, if you drive like an educated person. So, our drag racing idea might not be the smartest way to drive it. After the battery runs out, you need to charge it for eight hours. So, if you need something from the shops or your intoxicated friend needs a ride home, you’ll be out of luck. The Mitsubishi takes just six hours and can travel around 100 miles. The Mini can go roughly 100 miles on an overnight charge. That being said, drive like a crazy person and these cars will die very quickly.
This won’t be a problem for the new Chevrolet Volt . The Volt will be able to travel up to 40 miles on the electric battery, then it can be charged using a regular motor and because the motor doesn’t actually power the car, this isn’t a hybrid. Still, the Volt is a city car and a city car only.
So, are these three cars perfect for city life? Well, yes, in theory. Cars that don’t pollute are a city planner’s dream. No congestion charge and no smog over the city. They’re quite and they’re refined, not to mention usable and pretty fun around the town. Yet, with good comes the bad. These three don’t actually exist yet and you can’t buy them in any showroom.
It won’t be long though, at least in Europe. Smart is already talking about production, Mitsubishi is close, and Mini isn’t far behind. When the day does come, please don’t hate these machines. Think of them as the savior of our sports car. We will be able to put fewer miles on our Mercedes-Benz SL and Porsche 911 s. They aren’t replacements for our highly powered V8s, they are the saviors of them.