PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 September, 2009, 12:00am

Boys in blue go green

You might see the Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle (iMiEV) in Tsim Sha Tsui this week. We hear the Hong Kong police are putting the four-seater plug-in through its paces in the division district until Wednesday. The law has also completed a trial of the car on Lamma, where locals say they were impressed with the iMiEV's tech.

The force already has 94 Toyota Priuses and 10 Vectrix electric bikes, which we tested last year.

Since July, its officers have evaluated the iMiEV 'in a limited 'watch and ward' role to see how well the vehicle will perform for police work', says Senior Inspector Joe Li Tung-cheung of the force's Transport Division.

The force is also assessing the car's economics, says its motor transport officer, Superintendent Robin Jolly, who is supervising the iMiEV's police trial. Recharged in seven hours on a 15-amp current or 30 minutes on a quick-charger system for a range of 160km, the Mitsubishi can help the force cut its petrol bill and reduce its carbon footprint, he says. And Hong Kong Police stations can be the basis of a ready-made charging network, Li says. 'Even in the New Territories [a police vehicle is] no more than 10km away from a charge,' he says.

Tested worldwide, the iMiEV seems politically correct rather than practical at first. The test car's design lacks the presence we expect of a police car, but officers say that's because it has been 'primarily used as a logistic and support vehicle during the trial, and is not equipped with lights and siren or covered in police livery'.

The runabout's front also seems as vulnerable to shunts as its 659cc petrol-powered equivalent, but Li says the electric tiddler soon reveals its 180Nm torque.

'I took it out from the Sha Tin government offices for a police trial and drove all the way to police headquarters. I was very impressed with its running,' says Li, who owns a two-litre turbo Volkswagen Passat.

The car gives the driver a good all-round view of the road and there is plenty of leg and head room for three burly officers and Footdown because the lithium-ion battery is under the floor and the charger and motor are in the back. The iMiEV also scoots us from Arsenal Street Police Headquarters in Wan Chai to the Peak nick on Peak Road without the judder we have felt on the steeper inclines of Cotton Tree Drive and Magazine Gap in some runabouts under 1.5 litres. The test car seems as hissy as a Toyota Prius on electric, but officers say it is a smoother ride. The iMiEV 'is so quiet', says a constable, 'John'. The Prius can be jerky when you wait for the hybrid's engine to kick in, he says, adding he would buy an iMiEV if he could. The car's dashboard also encourages eco-driving, his colleague 'Su' says. Dashboard prompts remind a driver of remaining battery power and rate economy. Once you learn to read those, driving is easy, officers say.

Mitsubishi importer Sime Darby Hong Kong says it has 'no price idea for the iMiEV in Hong Kong'. Recent 'price indications by [local] media are their estimates', says dealer spokesman William Lee. Now bring on the MyCar and BYDs.