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Two Eerie Test Drives

Two fully electric cars are now available on the Australian market, The Mitsibishi i-MiEV and the Nissan Leaf.

We’ve just come back from a test drive in each of them, and it’s an experience we’ll remember for a very long time.

As soon as you start the engine you know it’s different! The press of a button or the turn of a key and it’s ready to go, but the only way you’ll know is a light on the dashboard. No starter motor, no engine revs, just an eerie silence.

Press your foot on the accelerator, though, and Whoosh, you’re off, though still in  eerie silence, but somehow, now that you are moving, the silence seems more comforting. Apart from quietness, both cars perform almost like normal cars. There’s no gear shift, so no jerkiness whatsoever, and the electric motor packs a pretty fair punch, and, once it’s got away from a standstill, you can certainly feel a push in the back as you depress the pedal. So much so, in fact, that they give much more torque than the vast majority of small cars on the road.

They are certainly not for everyone, and command a significant price premium, particularly as our government, unlike others, offers no assistance or incentives to purchase these zero emission cars.

 The i-MiEV (which stands for Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) is the smaller of the two, though is still a four-door, four seater. Its recommended retail price before on-road costs is $48,800.

It can be plugged in at home using a 15 amp power point and will take 7 hours to charge up for a range of 150kms. Alternatively it can be plugged in to a dedicated charging station (of which there are very few around) and you’ll get an 80 percent charge (good for around 120kms) in 30 minutes.

 The Nissan Leaf is slightly larger and is $51,000 plus on road costs, but these on road extras can be quite substantial, and can lift the car to well over $60,000 before you leave the showroom, particularly if you purchase the recommended $2750 fast charging system. The Leaf seems quicker away from the lights, and has more storage space, is not so distinctive on the road and is ultra smooth.

So what do we think?

Right now it’s a quirky purchase and won’t suit every motorist. Want to drive to Canberra from Sydney or Melbourne? Sorry, you just can’t with either of these vehicles as there are no charging stations in between. Hopefully that will improve in time, and the local shopping centres will offer free charging stations, as they do in the USA. But if you are happy to pay the premium, want to make a statement on zero emissions, and restrict your driving to commuting distances, then go ahead- you’ll enjoy it.


  1. Errol says:

    The comments regarding zero emissions from these electric cars is a nonsense. The production of these cars is horrendous as are the ongoing costs in maintaining one on the road, if one considers ’emissions’ as important.
    If you actually believe the thing about emissions affecting global warming, you would never consider buying one of these pranksters. If the emissions story was factual, we would soon have everything in place to accommodate these electric things, but alas, ’tis all a lie and therefore will not be supported by the governments that promote the ‘global warming’ stories.
    If emissions were a grave concern, why then can only the wealthy afford these cars? Anyone can buy one, but only the wealthy could afford to run them.
    Ask about the cost of the batteries and how they are manufactured, and then make your decision.

    July 26th, 2012 at 4:15 pm