Stella EV Power TrainEnlarge Photo
The automotive world held it's breath as Mitsubishi announced the production schedule for the i-MiEV. Would they be the first major automaker to bring an EV to market and sell to the general public? Close, but not quite. And close doesn't get you a world's first. Of all companies, Subaru unexpectedly jumped on the opportunity and now claims the title of the first major automaker to make an EV for sale to the public. The vehicle is the 2009 Subaru Stella Plug-in EV.
The car will run off lines soon and be available in Japan by August. Only one concept vehicle exists, and writers over at Edmunds got a chance to drive it. They travelled to Japan and had limited seat time with the vehicle in real world driving conditions. Here's what they had to say.
The concept and production versions are nearly identical. Only a few tweaks differentiate the two cars. The concept makes due with 53 hp while the production version has 63 hp. The concept weighs in about 110 pounds heavier than the production vehicle due to a redesign in the battery system. Finally, the concept is 15 ft-lbs down on torque to the production version listed at 125 ft-lbs.
Now to driving dynamics. The vehicle is limited to a top speed of 60 mph to decrease the chance of the battery system overheating and to extend the range of the vehicle. It accelerates from 0-40 mph in a quick 4 seconds, but looses the quickness as speeds above 40 are attempted. The EV is actually quicker than the standard Stella which carries a supercharged 660 cc inline four engine.
According to Edmunds, usage of the A/C as well as high speed blasts with the pedal to the floor both greatly diminish the range of the vehicle which is listed at 55 miles in ideal conditions. The Stella EV employs what is know as fast charge lithium-ion batteries. The batteries are capable of being charged to 80% capacity in as little as 15 minutes, getting you back on the road in no time.
The vehicle handles well and Edmunds even believes that the additional weight added by the battery pack makes the car feel more secure. Subaru worked on to beef up the suspension to better cope with the additional weight. Their efforts paid off as this version exhibits less body roll than expected and is quite nimble in daily driving.
According to Edmunds, the feel of the regenerative brakes is expected and takes some getting used to, but is no worse than other EV tested. The vehicle is near silent in operation.
Edmunds gives the thumbs up to Subaru as they part with a comment stating that the Stella EV is actually fun to drive.
The high cost of the vehicle, listed at nearly $48,000 added to the low output by Subaru expected at only 170 units in the next nine months, will make the Stella an exclusive vehicle destined to reach the hands of select few. Not really a mass production attempt, but Subaru sets a record and does so with an overall solid example of an EV.