Australia’s First Solar Powered Car?

The Australian Federal Government has announced the first all-electric car certified to run on Australian roads.

The Mitsubishi- made iMiEV should start rolling off production lines from June this year, but it’s still not clear whether the iMiEV will actually be available on the general market in Australia and Mitsubishi hasn’t said how much the car will cost.

Mitsubishi plans longer-term trials of the iMiEV in government and private fleets across the nation. According to Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, it’s unlikely the government would provide incentives for the project.

Short for ‘Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle’, the iMiEV is able to reach a top speed of 130 km/h, with a range of around 160 kilometres from a single charge. The vehicle requires seven hours from a normal domestic household power supply for a full battery charge.

While the iMiEV is a “zero emissions” vehicle, the electricity to charge it needs to come from somewhere and in Australia that is most commonly from coal fired power generation – a greenhouse gas emissions intensive process; particularly in states such as Victoria where brown coal is predominantly utilised.

Mitsubishi produce thin film solar panels, but there are no solar panels on the roof of the iMiEV. However, a grid connect solar power system installed on the home where it is housed could form the basis of it being (in part) a solar powered car. Householders could also elect to switch over to “green power” from their power company to lessen the carbon impact from the electricity required to recharge the vehicle.

The 4-seat iMiEV is a rear-wheel drive with three modes: Drive, Eco and Brake. Drive is the full power mode where the car drives under normal mode. Economic or ‘Eco’ mode allows the power to drop out automatically to extend the iMiEV’s range. Brake mode offers regenerative braking that absorbs kinetic energy and recharges the battery.

Compared to a similar sized petrol car, Mitsubishi claims the running costs per kilometre are around 33% lower.