Results from UK’s largest electric vehicle trial

The first results of a trial of Mitsubishi i-MiEVs have been published, which shows how the electric cars coped during one of the UK’s coldest winters for years.

The West Midlands-based CABLED project report covers the first quarter of use of 25 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicles).

Over the course of the project, the CABLED (Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Vehicle Demonstrators) consortium will test 110 vehicles, as part of the £25 million Technology Strategy Board’s Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator competition.

Some of the key findings of the report are as follows:

Distance:

* Electric vehicle drivers use their cars like the typical UK driver – the majority of journeys are less than five miles (at similar distances, when warming up conventional car engines are at their most polluting, and catalytic converters are at their least effective)

* Average daily mileage is 23 miles (well within the i-MiEVs 80 mile range)

Drivers:

* Drivers use the entire speed range of the car, showing they are happy to drive at motorway speeds when required

* The vehicles were driven in all temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius, throughout the winter period. There was a drop-off in usage at very low temperatures, likely to be the result of reduced car usage during extremely cold weather, when only essential journeys are made

Energy use and charging:

* Vehicles are parked for 97% of the time, typically overnight and during school hours, allowing lengthy battery charging periods at home and work

* Although vehicles only use the electricity needed to charge them they were left plugged in for more than 20% of the time, occasionally for several days at a time

Led by global engineering consultancy Arup, CABLED is the largest of eight consortia from across the UK to participate in the £25 million Technology Strategy Board’s Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator competition as well as being the first to begin vehicle trials. Data is being collected and analysed by Aston University. Regional Development Agency Advantage West Midlands has supported the CABLED consortium from the start and has invested £2.5 million in the project, ensuring the Region’s participation in the competition.

Andrew Everett, Lead Technologist in Low Carbon Vehicles for the organisation overseeing and funding the project, the Technology Strategy Board said, “It’s great to see data starting to come out of the demonstrator trials and the findings from the CABLED project are very positive. Seven other consortia will be collecting the same sort of data from onboard computers in around 340 test vehicles. It’s all going to be collated and published by the Technology Strategy Board in an act of open innovation. The information will be available to all and the aim is that the findings help drive innovation and development in Low Carbon Vehicles Technology as well as to inform future UK activities related to Ultra Low Carbon vehicles.”

Neil Butcher, Arup’s project leader of the CABLED consortium said: “Vehicles are quick and easy to plug in and this becomes a habit, even if the battery is still mostly full; so vehicles are usually fully charged at the start of the day. With the mass usage of vehicles, we will need to carefully consider how energy tariffs can be used to promote overnight charging and smooth demands on the grid.”

Brian Price, Aston University comments, “Collecting real-world usage of electric vehicles (EV) through our satellite mapping and analysis has been essential in understanding actual demands and requirements of EV vehicles for consumers. The journey data gathered is already showing that the current generation of ultra low carbon vehicles are cheap to run as well as being comparable to petrol & diesel vehicles for speed, ease of use and daily journey distance; using less than 30% of total charge in typical daily use. The next phase of the study will allow us to map out an optimal charging point network to further extend range and improve the convenience of electric cars.

Lance Bradley, Mitsubishi Motors’ Managing Director comments, “The i-MiEV is certainly proving itself in real-world tests. It is interesting that the British motorists involved in this trial don’t seem to be showing any significant signs of ‘range anxiety’ and are using their cars just as they would a normal vehicle. Altogether, this is good news for Mitsubishi and the future of electric vehicles in the UK, and justifies Mitsubishi Motors’ vision to lead the way in electric vehicle research, design, and manufacture.”

Drivers selected for the trials of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the 85 other consortium vehicles were chosen through an application process led by Coventry University. Five other manufacturers within CABLED will roll out vehicles in 2010, including Mercedes Benz/smart, Tata, Jaguar/Land Rover, LTI and Microcab industries.

Keywords: West Midlands-based CABLED (Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Vehicle Demonstrators) consortium project report, Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle), Technology Strategy Board’s Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator competition.