The new Model T?

It’s a Mitsubishi i-MiEV, lithium batteries, 130 km range, twice the torque of the petrol version and able to break any speed limit in the land. It’s dinky, but four seats and the inside looked surprisingly roomy for something that easy to park. Charge it from Meridian’s power and you’ve got zero-carbon transportation, right there. Even some Yanks driving it thought it was pretty decent.

This one was parked outside the cathedral this morning. They’re planned to be on sale in NZ next year. Welcome to the future*.

* Maybe. It’s got the performance of a Citroen 2CV and costs a lot more. How much more? Don’t know yet. It’ll get you a day trip to Levin or Martinborough and back, but can’t make it as far as Palmerston North, let alone get you back from there. Here’s hoping that it’s a success in the marketplace, but still, petrol technology remains hard to beat. And it’s got a stupid name.

24 thoughts on “The new Model T?

    1. Lithiums are pretty handy, and lithium phosphates can usefully recharge in less time than it takes to drink a cup of tea.

      A metric fuck-ton of money has gone into research on fuel cells, for not that much benefit. They’re still expensive, they’re still too big, they’re still unreliable. Right now, fuel cells aren’t looking like the number one technology for replacing petrol. If you don’t believe me, then please convince Ballard to keep throwing good research money after bad.

      Hydrogen? It’s hard to store, more expensive and dirty to make than electricity and there’s no distribution network. I have electricity wherever I go, at pretty much fuck all cost and, in NZ at least, it’s pretty clean energy.

      1. Stop giving me problems, I want solutions!

        We’ve defined the problem, the rest is just a SMOS – small matter of science. (cf SMOP).

        Batteries are getting better but we’ve still got a fair way to go.

        1. I’ll start to believe in hydrogen as a clean fuel when the H2 we make already (mostly as an intermediate to ammonia, for fertilizer) is made by electrolysis, rather than by reduction of hydrocarbons. The latter process generates CO2, as in:

          CH4 + H2O → CO + 3H2
          CO + H2O → CO2 + H2
          3H2 + N2 → 2NH3

          1. Yep, that’s what I mean by “solving hydrogen” – working out a way to produce hydrogen that is clean and efficient.

            Damn scientists are probably all slacking on the internet and playing sudoku instead…

          2. Yup, us scientists have worked out the solution to that in the 1950s, we’re just so attached to our copious grant money that we keep lying and saying “more research needed”.

            Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s coke and whores in the seminar room.

      1. Very odd car to be inside, the Prius.
        I’m sure they’re economical, and ecologically friendly in terms of petrol usage .. but the interior just makes me wonder what the initial build footprint was. And so does the drivetrain/battery system.

        I think the Greens generally just suggest getting a small 1300cc Japanese used car for overall less impact, heh.

        1. The total life footprint of most cars is around 10% for build, 85% for use, 5% for disposal. Even if the Prius uses double the resources to build (which it doesn’t), a small amount of saving on use footprint ends up a winner overall.

          Audi did the same calculation when making the A8 out of aluminium. Okay, the build footprint was more, but reduced fuel use means you’re ahead on overall footprint after 40,000 kms. Given that a car like that should last quarter million, you’re ahead overall.

          Obviously, this depends upon usage patterns and if you’re mainly driving non-urban, then the scales can get tipped to something smaller and simpler than a hybrid.

          1. Is that really true? I’d the understanding (and could well be wrong) that the embodied energy of cars was so high that driving an older car till the wheels came off was far better than upgrading to a more fuel efficient new model. (But, of course, when buying a new model, buy a fuel efficient one, etc.)

            Suppose recycling costs/opportunities and virgin vs. recycled content makes a big difference in those numbers.


          2. Here’s one reference claiming that the embodied energy built into cars is 4% of it’s lifetime use, in which case, going for a new fuel efficient car over keeping an old car wins hands down.

            I’ve seen numbers from 4% up to about 15%, depending upon what assumptions get made and what vehicles are under discussion, but generally, if it’s old and used more than once in a blue moon, bin it.

        1. With a decent HVDC to 240V AC converter, the i-MiEV could make the basis of a portable sound system.

          Or you could just short out the lithiums to make a combined spot welder and barbeque.

          1. Yeah, 20KWh would drive a reasonable PA for the duration of a party.

            Can you imagine what’ll happen when the bogan kids can afford these? 100 cars circling Courtenay Place with 4KW sound systems pumping out hardhouse…

          1. So an MiEV could produce 240V RMS AC from a bridge configured inverter with no transformer. The Prius would need a transformer, unless you ran off 110v instead.

  1. And it’s got a stupid name < --- haha trust you to notice the important things.
    I like this, it’s quite cute, but the whole 130km range is a pretty BIG problem. Especially seeing that, you know, you’d need to get from point a to point b eventually 😉
    Also, on the point of the roomy inside, have you ever been in a mini? And I mean one of those REALLY tiny old ones? Now THOSE have some leg space. Surprisingly so for a speckle of a car. 🙂

    1. There’s been eight of us in an original Mini, back when I was young and stupid, and Minis were old then.

      I only managed five trips out of Wellington last year, so I’d be tempted to get one of these and hire something petrol for missions. Or just cadge off mates, coz after having the van, everyone owes me favours, in a Godfather style.

    2. What would be cool would be if you could lease them on a scheme that lets you drop off / pick up at railway stations as you travel around.
      Of course this relies on:
      – a usable rail system
      – people not using the car as a handbag/ashtray

  2. I’m intrigued by the systems with the electric cars with a generator trailer (aerodynamic, etc.) for long trips. Not the kind of thing that’d appeal to mass-market, but interesting potential for a flexible around-town runabout, with cross-country range.


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