Car of the future to electrify HK

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 April, 2010, 12:00am

Prepare for some surprises. The i MiEV looks like James 'Avatar' Cameron might have had a hand in its design. That familiar-looking round black plastic cap at the back of the vehicle is not where you shove the petrol pump nozzle. And if you're expecting something like a souped-up electric carving knife on wheels, think again.

So far, the 30 or so of Mitsubishi's Innovative Electric Vehicles to have reached Hong Kong's shores have been snapped up by the government, which thinks they will make good police cars on the outer islands, and CLP Power.

The rest of us will have to wait until next year to get our hands on one - at a price that has yet to be determined but that, given the high-capacity lithium-ion battery, is not likely to be cheap.

So what's it actually like to drive? First thing to master is the gear stick. D is for drive, which surely needs little explanation. There's a cruising position (eco) and then B, which you can engage when the car's going downhill to charge the battery. Not exactly rocket science.

Point two is the engine noise - or rather lack of it. Hum, buzz, warble, whisper - nah, there's not a verb in the English language that really does this four-seater, four-wheeled, 47-kilowatt cutie justice. Its eco-credentials speak for themselves. Emissions don't get much lower and, even taking account of the carbon dioxide emissions from generating the power required to charge the car, it's still way ahead of something combusting gasoline.

A charge grants roughly 100 kilometres of motoring on Hong Kong highways, and juicing it up is simply a matter of plugging it in. And it's going to be inexpensive to run when you compare the cost of electricity with that of petrol.

I was keen to see how the i MiEV would perform on the open road and, having galloped through the Western Harbour Tunnel, Stonecutters Bridge seemed like the sensible place to go, especially given its rather futuristic curves. Pop the stick in drive and the i MiEV kicks forward almost as powerfully as if you were burning petrol. Shift to eco and it adopts its flying saucer mode; the driving seat is deliciously comfortable.

Buzzing along at 110km/h towards Tung Chung, an old piece of doggerel came to mind - 'he soars through the air with the greatest of ease, that daring young man on the flying trapeze'. This is one of the few road tests I've ever walked away from feeling I would happily repeat it all over again. This is the car of the future. I want one.