A viable low-carbon family runaround?
2008/01/15 I took a quick test-drive in a NICE 2+2 "MEGA City" electric car with a list price a little under £11,000.
(2013/05/20: the original site seems to have long-since gone, so links removed.)
The MEGA City is about the size of an old-style Mini or a bit bigger, and it could accommodate 4 adults at a squeeze, or more pertinently for my family, 2 adults plus 1 child in a child seat plus luggage or shopping.
The car's range is 40 miles or more on one charge with the current lead-acid batteries (which are good for ~5 years), though Lithium-chemistry replacements (possibly available a year or so from now) promise twice the distance and no practical limit on the number of charge/discharge cycles.
(Note that a full charge is more than a whole day's electricity at our home, so should be budgeted for in CO2 terms, and preferably supplied from a 100% 'green'/renewable source. Note that in the UK, enough solar PV to charge this in one day (~10kWp), possibly overnight from local battery storage, even in mid-winter, would cost over £50k to buy and install!)
I wasn't very adventurous with my test-drive, partly since it's a while since I've driven at all, and also because I'm used to manual (gear-stick change) cars, while this is configured as an automatic.
Apart from the lack of gear-stick, the other 'funny' was the lack of a starter. It's more-or-less a reflex, of course, to turn the key one notch further to start the car: totally unnecessary for an electric!
The car is very quiet, like a super-quiet milk float, and seems responsive to my inexpert hands. I don't own a car, and simply hire something cheap and simple when I need to, eg on foreign business trips, and the MEGA City is as nice as any of those. (Well, with the possible exception of the tank-like Volvo with heated seats that we got by accident in Finland because the guy in front of us had turned up without a credit-card at the airport!)
The brakes are regenerative, ie recharge the battery, but I tried an emergency stop just like in a driving test, and the car seemed to stop pretty fast even in the rain, so I'm assuming that a mechanical brake is engaged when you slam your foot down.
The batteries in the MEGA City are maintenance-free sealed lead-acid. The idea of having to remember to check and top-up batteries does not appeal, which is which in my off-grid system I use SLA (Sealed Lead-Acid) also.
You really wouldn't need to be a dedicated 'green' to use this vehicle as a runaround for shopping, shipping kids about, etc, since it 'just works' as a small and efficient car.
|Maximum Speed||40mph (~60kph)|
|Maximum Range||50miles (~80km)|
|Typical Range||38miles (~60km)|
|Unladen Weight||645kg (including 236kg batteries)|
|Maximum Laden Weight||850kg|
|Electrical Consumption||~185Wh/mile (~116Wh/km)|
|Charge Time||8h (from empty)|
|Charge Power||1.5kW (from 240V AC mains)|
The machine that serves this site is powered by local off-grid solar and wind renewable energy as far as possible, backed up by on-grid renewables including as of 2008/03 a substantial grid-tie solar PV system, and 100% renewable grid power (mainly wind) from Ecotricity; power draw is ~4W.
Please email corrections, comments and suggestions.
Copyright © Damon Hart-Davis 2007-2013.