Earth Notes: A Note On the NICE "MEGA City" Electric Car: Review

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.

Selected Specifications

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

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