In describing trends from demonstration through niche to mass market, Anderman noted that nickel/metal hydride technology makes up 99 percent of today’s advanced automotive battery market, predominately in “strong” hybrid electric vehicles, i.e., the Toyota Prius and similar full HEVs. Lithium batteries offer greater specific power and energy, and they’re the preferred technology for plug-in HEVs a electric vehicles (BEVs). However, energy density, calendar and cycle life, reliability, safety—and cost!—are still big challenges. If matters are pushed prematurely, Anderman observed, things could backfire. “The industry,” he said, “does not need a 2011 version of Who Killed the Electric Car?”
As a specific example, he offered data on the GS-Yuasa/Mitsubishi battery used in the latter’s i -MiEV. (See “Eclectic Electrics,” March 2009 and archived at roadandtrack.com, for our mini test of this neat urban BEV.) Its 441-lb. lithium battery pack has a maximum output power of 60 kW and 16 kWh of energy (this latter, the same as the PHEV Chevrolet Volt’s). Anderman estimated that the i-MiEV battery alone costs $16,800.
This past summer Mitsubishi began leasing its i-MiEV to corporate and governmental fleets in its home market. (The added hyphen in i-MiEV identifies the production version of this BEV.) Sales to private customers will start in April 2010.
Full details are given of its recharging options; these, considered state of the art for BEVs. A full charge on a 200-volt/15-amp household circuit would take approximately seven hours. A 100volt/15-amp hookup would take twice this long. A special 3-phase 200-volt setup could achieve an 80-percent charge in about 30 minutes. Mitsubishi also notes that actual charge times are affected by ambient temperature and power source status. The i-MiEV’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price is set at ¥4,599,000 (approximately $48,250) including a home-market consumption tax of ¥219,000 (about $2,300). For fiscal 2009, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry offers a “maximum subsidy” of ¥1,390,000, about $14,580). Also, current Japanese incentives promoting eco-cars give exemption from excise and weight taxes normally applied to new vehicles. The net lease price of an i-MiEV is equivalent to $33,663.
More than once, specialists have told me to figure battery value at half the current BEV price. Menahem Anderman’s $16,800—cited well before Mitsubishi’s announced pricing— is uncannily close to this.
Not long after its initial announcement, Mitsubishi said it expects to cut the i-MiEV’s price by more than half during the next decade. Tax breaks and government subsidies were cited as reasons for this target, apparently combined with economies of scale as BEV demand increases.
Written by Dennis Simanaitis