We always knew electric cars would be pricey, but we were slightly taken aback by the cost of the new Mitsubishi i-MiEV coming to the UK in January 2011: it's going to cost £38,699. The i-MiEV will be one of the first battery cars on sale here, as opposed to the small-scale lease projects such as the Mini E, and will arrive around the same time as the Nissan Leaf EV.
Help is at hand to trim that £39k on-the-road price tag. The UK Government's Consumer Incentive Scheme will cut £5000 off the list price, making the Mitsubishi i-MiEV a slightly more palatable £33,699. The grants are available to qualifying electric cars and plug-in hybrids.So electric cars are going to be really expensive to own?
Yes and no. Nissan is predicting to sell or lease its Leaf from March 2011 (but refuses to give a price yet) while Vauxhall's Ampera is likely to cost an estimated £35k when it lands next year. In fact, 2011 is going to be the year of the electric car – EV champion Renault will launch the battery Fluence and Kangoo in June 2011, followed by the Twizy next August.
All the EV providers are talking about offering lease deals to make their battery cars more affordable and to remove some of the anxiety over battery life. Electric cars should in fact prove reliable; Mitsu points out that there are just four moving parts in its 47kW permanent magnet synchronous motor compared to more than 300 in a typical combustion engine.
Factor in running costs and the argument becomes stronger. Mitsubishi quotes 96 pence for a full charge, meaning a typical annual mileage of 12,000 will cost just £115 in 'fuel costs'. Because the i-MiEV is zero-emissions, it qualifies for free road tax, no Congestion Charge in London, free parking in some boroughs, and zero benefit-in-kind company car tax – adding up to potential savings of thousands of pounds a year.Yes, but I'll run out of juice halfway up the M1...
That's the electric car conundrum. Think of the i-MiEV and its ilk as mainly urban devices with a range of 80 miles and you could in fact use one as a day-to-day commuter, given the right recharging facilities at home and work. Or a very long extension lead.
The i-MiEV has a top speed of 81mph, seats four and weighs 1105kg thanks to compact dimensions of 3475mm long and 1475mm wide. Recharging takes six hours on a domestic 240v set-up or just half an hour on a rapid charge system.
Lance Bradley, Mitsubishi Motors UK’s MD, acknowledged the high price of the i-MiEV but said: 'We are aware that, by their very nature, any new technologies always command a premium, which has been true for anything from plasma televisions to cars. Others make price claims and estimations, but we have a real vehicle that is available now and is proven in the real world.'Still, £34k for a city car – even after grants?
Don't worry, nuttier types can spec the i-MiEV even higher. Mitsu is gunning for a personalisation scheme to rival the Mini and 500's – details include bio-degradable bamboo floor mats, monogrammed leather seats and roof decals including the Union flag pictured above.