As manufacturers and consumers gear towards a more sustainable motoring future, electric and hybrid cars are destined to be more commonplace on our roads. Where once EVs were 'concept' cars or the privilege of a select few more manufacturers are releasing mass produced EVs for the general market, so how do they all compare?
Mitsubishi's 100% electric iMiev was launched in Japan in July 2009, with a Mitsubishi dealer primarily selling to fleet customers. The 'Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle' touched down on UK shores in January and is being hailed as the UK's first mass-produced pure electric car. The eco-friendly city car is powered by a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery and emits no CO2 when on the move. EVs have been criticised in the past for being slow but the Mitsubishi iMiev is quicker than its petrol equivalent- the 'i' minicar- and is capable of reaching 60mph from standstill in around 13 seconds and a top speed of 80mph. It's a 100% city car and is not particularly suited to motorway driving, despite Mitsubishi claiming it can do 100 miles on a single charge. The new Mitsubishi iMiev is pretty pricy at £33,699 (less the £5000 government plug-in grant) but Mitsubishi are hoping the low running costs- a third of that of a comparable petrol motor- will help persuade potential buyers.
The Nissan LEAF has been described as the world's first affordable zero emission car and before it was even released in the UK the LEAF was awarded the prestigious 2011 European Car of the Year award, so it has a lot to live up to! Like the iMiev the LEAF has a range of 100 miles before charging is necessary but unlike the iMiev it's less of a dent to the pocket. Priced from £30,900, or £25,990 with the government grant, the LEAF is certainly a more viable option for families looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Nissan estimates the LEAF costs around £2 to £3 for a full charge- which is less than three pence per mile, and with a quick charging facility available the LEAF can be charged up to 80% in just 30 minutes. Although a full charge will take up to 8 hours.
The Toyota Prius was the first mass produced hybrid car, and is one of the most popular cars in Japan, where Toyota originated. It went on sale worldwide in 2001 and became an instant hit, garnering plenty of celebrity endorsement. Toyota is testing a Prius plug in hybrid, currently only as fleet models in Japan. In the PHV the current nickel-metal hydride battery will be replaced by a more powerful lithium-ion battery so the Prius will be capable of 12.5 miles on just electric- significantly less than the Ampera's 40 plus. CO2 emissions are expected to be just 41g/km and compared to a conventional car will reduce fuel consumption by more than 80% (so you'd expect from a hybrid!). Buyers will be able to plug in and charge the Prius PHV from home on a standard 110/120-volt household outlet in just a couple of hours, compared to 240 volts and 8 hours for the 100% electric LEAF.
The Vauxhall Ampera is an Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV), not a hybrid as Vauxhall are clear to point out. Unlike tradtional hybrids- that use a battery and an engine for the majority of the power- the Ampera is run entirely on electricity. A battery powered 148bhp electric motor and a 16kWh lithium-ion battery drive the Ampera, and only when necessary does the 74bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine kick in to charge up the motor.
Most hybrids will very few miles solely on electric power but the Ampera is capable of up to 50 miles, ideal for most day to day journeys. When more miles are required the Ampera is capable of more than 300 miles thanks to the generator powered motor. Because of the extra oomph provided by the motor the Ampera can achieve a 0 to 62mph speed of nine seconds, 4 seconds faster than the iMiev. It'll be the UKs first extended-range electric vehicle when it arrives early 2012, and it's expected to cost less £28,995 when the plug in grant is included.
Amy Sawyer is an online marketing executive currently researching Mitsubishi dealer