Home' SA Motor : Winter 2011 Contents www.raa.com.au 17
system, reducing even further the little
rocket’s carbon footprint.
Without the solar kick, it’s still
25 per cent better than a like-sized petrol
car once the emissions for generation of
its electricity are factored in. Mind you,
that figure’s based on relatively clean gas-
fired power. Go to Victoria, where brown
coal fires the power turbines and the story
is worse, a reminder of how imperative it
is that we embrace and develop low-
emission power generation.
But back to the car. It’s a small
five-door hatch, which on first appearance
had me exclaiming, ‘how cute!’ It shares
many characteristics of other similar sized
combustion engine runabouts – think
Suzuki Swift or Hyundai Getz, Holden
Barina or Mazda 2.
The IMiEV’s interior is surprisingly
spacious, readily accommodating
four adults if need be – five would be
a squeeze. The hatch storage is not
substantial but it easily accommodates
a moderate supermarket raid or retail-
Once at the wheel, the first impression
is one of comfort and familiarity. It’s when
you go to start the car that the IMiEV’s
extraordinary features reveal themselves.
Like many more upmarket vehicles, it uses
a keyless ignition system. While the ‘key’
is needed to remotely unlock the vehicle,
it only needs to be within the car for the
starting switch to operate. An electronic
bell sounds when you have powered up –
then there’s an eerie silence.
‘Is it on?,’ is your first thought.
The illuminated display in front of the
steering wheel reassures you it is. Nothing
else does though. No vibration, no hum,
no sound at all. Silence.
The three-dial driver’s dash display
includes a ‘fuel’ gauge, a multi-feature
odometer and a large central dial
showing how much or little power
you’re drawing – or in decelerating
Engage D (for drive) or Eco (slower
acceleration, less power draw), release
hand and foot brakes and off you
go – silently!
Acceleration, especially in D, is
impressive, steering is light and responsive
and manoeuverability is excellent. But it’s
the odometer and central power draw
gauges which become addictive.
The electric engine converts under
deceleration into an alternator, generating
power as you go downhill or approach
lights, corners, driveways and the like.
Hence with careful driving and using
natural deceleration you can actually GAIN
power while driving.
On one occasion, I travelled 12 km
from home to FIVEaa’s city studios, back
out to my Stepney gym and home again
and ended up with 4 km more range than
when I’d set out!
Going uphill heavily loaded, however,
delivers a more sobering equation. With
four adults on board, the little IMiEV
struggled to achieve much more than
80 km/h in Eco going up the freeway. It
also drained 45 km from the range gauge,
travelling just 13 km. Homeward bound,
downhill, it fared better, recovering 11 km
of range, but overall ‘cost’ 29 km for a
26 km distance round trip.
So the big question is, after a
weekend’s outing, would I consider buying
an electric car? Absolutely, is the answer,
but with the following qualifications.
There are some interior refinements
needed to placate the consumer in
me – an illuminated gear shift for night
driving, a more accurate sat nav system
(it misplaced my location on a number of
occasions) and an easier way to switch
between odometer readings – to name
three. The exterior mirrors distorted
distance in a disturbing manner and
created uncertainty when changing lanes
– a pet hate in any motor car.
At the prototype price of $60,000 the
car is clearly too expensive to compete
against its like-sized combustion engine
cousins, so mass production will be
needed to bring the price down. Sales
volume will also presumably drive
solutions for the question of where and
how to re-power, especially pertinent
for drivers racking up 100 km a day
or more. Remember though, our
pioneering motorist forebears faced the
same dilemma until the invention of
As someone trying to tread more
lightly on the planet, the IMiEV appeals
as a genuine step forward in city
commuting. It reduces emissions and
increases efficiency which provides
comfort and practicality.
It won’t change the world overnight,
but at least it’s trying to improve the way
we approach things. Innovation is our only
hope in changing our world for the better
and the perky little IMiEV is a terrific place
AboVe: Jane and keith testing the rAA’s
Photography by Glen Pictures.
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