Earth Notes: On the NICE "MEGA City" Electric Car: Review (2008)

Read about this early viable urban low-carbon family runaround electric vehicle (EV).
car electric NICE MEGA City 2 plus 2 exterior

2008/01/15: I took a quick test-drive in a NICE 2+2 "MEGA City" electric car. Its list price was 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. It could accommodate 4 adults at a squeeze. Or more pertinently for my family right now, two adults plus one child in a child seat, plus luggage or shopping.

dashboard

The car's range is 40 miles or more on one charge with the current lead-acid batteries, which are good for about 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 it should be budgeted for in CO2 terms, and preferably supplied from a 100% 'green'/renewable source.

In the UK, enough solar PV to charge this in one day in deepest mid-winter would be about 10kWp. That would cost over £50k to buy and install at 2008 prices! This car could possibly be charged overnight from local battery storage.

Test Drive

MEGA City orange exterior

I wasn't very adventurous with my test-drive. Partly since it's a while since I've driven at all. Also because I'm used to manual (gear-stick change) cars, but 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. 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 at the airport without a credit-card!)

The brakes are regenerative, ie recharge the battery. I tried an emergency stop just like in a driving test anyhow, 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.

Lead-Acid Batteries

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. It 'just works' as a small and efficient car.

Selected Specifications

ParameterValue
Maximum Speed40mph (~60kph)
Maximum Range50miles (~80km)
Typical Range38miles (~60km)
Unladen Weight645kg (including 236kg batteries)
Maximum Laden Weight850kg
Electrical Consumption~185Wh/mile (~116Wh/km)
Maximum Power4kW
Battery Capacity8.2kWh
Charge Time8h (from empty)
Charge Power1.5kW (from 240V AC mains)
'Fuel' Cost~1.5p/mile

Sources and Links

  • Archived parts of MEGA City Web site.
  • Gallery of MEGA City pictures from my test-drive.
  • California's PG&E ex-V2G experiments circa 2007.
  • Need EV insurance? Try PlugInsure.co.uk which claims to be a specialist.
  • One potential international car-charging standard as of 2010 is SAE J1772 ("SAE Surface Vehicle Recommended Practice J1772, SAE Electric Vehicle Conductive Charge Coupler"): a North American standard for electrical connectors for EVs maintained by the Society of Automotive Engineers, rated 120--240V AC at up to ~17kW.
  • Zerocarbonsta's Can the Grid take it? suggests that the 250bn miles/year driven in the UK in (30M!) cars each year might at 5m/kWh of electricity and thus 50TWh/y only add 12% to total grid demand. Especially at night that should be no trouble at all.
  • Without Hot Air's Performance data for a GWiz in London averaged 21kW per 100km or about 5km per kWh.
  • Overview of early electric cars (1895-1925): "One hundred years ago electric cars were a common sight on city streets in Europe and the United States. Many of them had a range comparable to that of today's EVs."