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Australia ‘ideal for plug-in cars’

Fill 'er up: The Mitsubish i-MiEV has a six-metre power cord for recharging.

Fast-charge network not essential to spark EV growth here, says Mitsubishi

30 Mar 2009

AUSTRALIA is ideally suited to quick adoption of electric vehicles and may not be hampered by slow installation of fast-charging infrastructure, according to Mitsubishi Motors Australia.

The company has started a feasibility study on the Mitsubishi i-MiEV small electric city commuter, which it hopes to sell here soon.

While there are no moves by government or entrepreneurs to install fast-charge stations in Australia, Mitsubishi Motors Australia president and CEO Rob McEniry does not think that will be a make-or-break hurdle for the i-MiEV.

“Ninety-eight per cent of journeys or daily driving are less than 100km. The i-MiEV is a city commuter, so 100km should be enough,” he said.

That means most recharging can be done at home, and this is where Australia has a major advantage over other countries.

“Almost every house has a garage or a driveway where the car can be parked off the road,” Mr McEniry said.

21 center imageThat made it simple to plug in the car for the seven hours needed to recharge the car’s batteries from a normal 240V household outlet. The i-MiEV comes standard with a six-metre power cord.

Other countries such as Japan, China and even many parts of Europe faced a much bigger infrastructure problem, he said, because most cars there were parked on the street. Recharging in that situation would require public recharge stations.

Mr McEniry said the lack of a fast-charge system for the i-MiEV was being addressed in a joint project by Mitsubishi and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco).

This was expected to be completed by the time the car entered limited series production around the middle of the year. The fast-charge system would reduce the recharge time to about one hour for a full charge, 30 minutes for an 80 per cent charge and 15 minutes for a 50 per cent charge.

Dr Peter Pudney, of the University of South Australia, said data suggested a range of 100km would be satisfactory for most driving requirements.

“The question then is, would you buy a car that is suitable for almost all journeys?” he said at the i-MiEV press presentation.

“We are going to have to change the way we buy and use cars.

“Is it sensible to buy a car that can carry five people and tow a boat across Australia, and then commute to work and back in it every day.”

Dr Pudney also showed graphs plotting daily electricity use in every state, for summer and winter months. These showed that there was enough generation and distribution capacity in the electricity systems of each state to allow the recharging of electric vehicles, assuming they covered the same 137 million kilometres a day that current cars do.

“There is plenty of capacity in the electric generation and distribution system for overnight charging to be viable,” he said, although he pointed to one potential problem.

“Once the number of vehicles starts to get high, you need to manage the charging demand.”

Drivers might have to give electricity distributors the power to delay any recharging until later in the night, to avoid creating another unusual peak when drivers get home between 6pm and 7pm.

He said not every car would require a full charge, as some might still have a good charge in their batteries.

This might allow distributors to draw down that residual power in the car to help cope with the evening peak load and then charge the vehicle later in the evening or morning.

But governments and distributors might need to be aware of a need to upgrade sub-stations and wires in the distribution network as electric car ownership rose.

“There are also issues to do with transformers and wires, which are designed to cool down at night,” he said.

“That’s what you see happens with heat waves. You get transformers blowing up after a long run of days of high temperatures because they just haven’t had a chance to cool down.

“They are designed to cool down overnight, not just in 10 minutes.”

Dr Pudney said there was some forward thinking being done by town planners about electric cars, in Adelaide at least.

“The Mawson Lakes transport hub interchange has ductwork under the carpark in preparation for electric vehicles. There are no cables yet, but it will be easy to install them.”

Read more:

EV subsidies needed, says Mitsubishi

First Oz drive: Electric i-MiEV coming, ready or not

Melbourne show: Mitsu production EV ready to roll

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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