What Range Anxiety? Daihatsu EV Does 623 Miles On One Charge

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Daihatsu Mira EV - Photo by the Japan EV Club

Daihatsu Mira EV - Photo by the Japan EV Club

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Last October, Simon Hackett and Emilis Prelgauskas set a new distance record for a production battery-powered vehicle: a hugely impressive 313 miles in a 2008 Tesla Roadster. That's around 70 miles more than the EPA's rated range for the world's best -known EV.

Unfortunately for them, not even a month later, the Japan EV Club (JEVC) beat that distance by 44 miles. Now, that same group has upped the ante significantly, recording a stunning 623 miles on a single charge in their small converted Daihatsu Mira van.

Their rather less photogenic but significantly more kawaii ("cute") Daihatsu Mira van is an electric home conversion, based on one of Japan's popular kei-class city cars.

These kei-jidosha are usually powered by a 660cc gasoline engine (that's less than half the 1.4-liter capacity of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt's range extending engine). The JEVC ditched that in favor of a 35-kilowatts (46-horsepower) electric motor.

Powering the Mira EV is a Sanyo lithium-ion battery pack containing 8320 laptop-type cells for a total output of 74 kilowatt-hours. This is the same approach that Tesla has taken for its much higher-performance Roadster.

Like many home conversions--and differing from production EVs like the Tesla Roadster and 2011 Nissan Leaf--the Mira conversion retains its standard five-speed manual transmission. With a total weight of less than 1800 pounds (800 kg), its relatively  low power isn't much of a problem, and range is aided by low rolling-resistance Toyo tires.

On its first run, the team covered the 357 miles from Tokyo to Osaka in 13 hours, at an average speed of 27 miles per hour. Clearly not a high speed run, but probably representative of Japanese traffic conditions and the hilly terrain between cities.

Then, back in May this year, the EV distance record fell again.

The JEVC had been hard at work behind the scenes, turning their Daihatsu Clark Kent into an EV Superman. They benefited from even lower rolling-resistance Toyo Eco Walker tires, along with weight reduction measures including a carbon fiber seat.

No doubt using some fairly light-footed driving techniques, the EV Club decimated their previous record by a full 278 miles--showing 623 miles on the trip meter before the power died.

Along the way, the team took a trip to the Fuji International Speedway where they displayed the car to schoolchildren learing about electric vehicles and environmental issues.

Once again,the team had to battle with steep hills and crawling traffic throughout their five-day, no-charging journey. Average speed this time was only 25 mph, accounted for by more frequent stops on the longer journey.

The Japan EV Club is a big advocate for home conversions. While our Japanese is a little rusty, they extol the virtues of a converted car that gives an existing car a longer life than one powered by a finite resource such as gasoline. And they say a home EV conversion is actually quite simple, owing to the low number of parts needed in an electric drivetrain.

Above all, conversions are an inexpensive way into the world of EV ownership. The team highlights the converted taxis and three-wheelers used daily as public transport in the Middle and Far East.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

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Although the Mira isn't likely to appear on U.S. soil any time soon, you'll soon be able to drive something very similar: Mitsubishi's upcoming 2012 i-MiEV is another kei-class car with its tiny gasoline engine replaced by an electric motor and batteries, albeit this time by the automaker itself.

You won't quite manage 623 miles on a single charge--USA Today struggled for a real-world 50-60 mile range--it'll offer the benefits of small size and like the Mira, it'll be at it's most efficient in city traffic, where low speeds are less of a drain on the battery.

The 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV is expected to go on sale in the fall of 2011 at a pre-tax incentive price possibly as low as $27,000. You'll be paying a lot for not-a-lot of car, but for some, the cute looks and fun drive will be all they need from an EV.

The final word goes to the Japan EV Club's Mira driver, who wrote on the team's blog,

"The 'no-charge trip' is now over,
But Mira EV Challenge has just begun."

Is 623 miles just a taste of future electric-vehicle range?

[Japan Electric Vehicle Club (Japanese) via Edmunds and Electric Vehicle News]

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Comments (18)
  1. the range will get better in the future - but because of better battery systems, not by making a smaller, lighter vehicle.
    these types of cars do well as nevs, but not as bevs.

  2. Certainly is, and that's why I think better place will fail with the swapping stations. Sure we wont see these ranges in production for a while, but potentially we could have a 1000 mile battery. Given this record its only a couple years away. That should be more then you'll every need to drive between charges. Then its just a matter of reducing price, and ensuring quick charge doesn't damage the batteries to much.

  3. 1000 mile range batteries wont be AVAILABLE for a long time. it is not about whether we have the technology - that is always doable. we could have had the technology for evs 30 years ago, had big oil allowed it.
    the ranges will dribble upwards, just enough to continue to get the next pack of owners to buy the current year's stock.

  4. so for example, the 34,000 leaf with 100 mile charge the first year will be the 30,000 leaf with 125 mile charge the second year.

  5. Even 600 miles per charge won't be enough for the anti-EV crowd. They'll just complain how the car takes so long to charge that it's still not practical.

  6. @Tom..Wait for the input from Jimza Skeptik....not even 2000 miles can satisfy him.....and even a 10 minutes wait for 300 miles range will be too much.....because he probably can fill his Lincoln Navigator tank in 8:52.....go figure... :)

  7. @ Tom M - Funnily enough, I couldn't actually find details on how long the Mira took to charge on the team's website, or indeed what type of charger they used. It'd certainly be interesting to find out.

  8. And I have read if the Mitsubishi i-MiEV being sold for only $22,000 by the time it's ready for American consumers. A conversion to all-electric drive for my 3,100 lb. 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS with automatic CVT transmission could be done for less than $22,000 though. Right?

  9. at this point, i think it makes little sense to convert a gas car. not when you can get ones that are engineered from the get-go to be evs. unless there is something very unusual about the car that you just cant part with it.

  10. bg automotive is throwing in the towel. but the reason is interesting reading. it entails which companies (ford, nissan, tesla, fisker), and which ones did not (bg, coda) from the department of energy.
    the fact that coda is still going strong says a lot about that company.

  11. By ev enthusiast
    #10, Posted: 8/7/2010
    bg automotive is throwing in the towel. but the reason is interesting reading.
    Got a link?

  12. Conversions are a lot easier than production EVs. They don't have to worry about passing crash, burn, and water tests. Fit and finish are a non-issue, can choose no power steering or a/c or use electric motor to drive accessories like vacuum pump for power brakes.
    Point I am getting at is that Tesla has a strong sealed case and water cooling for their pack (certified for air flight no less) and weighs about 1/2 the total of the converted Daihatsu Mira van. They have about 45% more batteries, but probably no safety protection or cooling. Obviously stripped of any conveniences as they have a light weight fiberglass seat for the driver.
    Anthony gives JEVC a false excuse for their low speed. There are lots of highways in Japan and when I was there, never saw a traffic jam on any (far more people use public transit). They drove at the very low speeds to get the long range, so did the drivers of the Tesla setting their record.
    Still this is good promotion for EVs.

  13. @ Roy H - ev enthusiast's link is in his username in the post you quoted.
    With regard to the article, my comments on the car's average speed were not a "false excuse". They were an educated assumption based on comments the driver himself makes in the team's blog - and he refers to heavy traffic, steep hills and frequent stops. Try the same over 623 miles and a 25mph average seems quite realistic. The Tesla drivers on the other hand had flat, straight roads and virtually no traffic, and yes, their speeds were genuinely low.
    Also, although the Mira isn't a production car, the chassis itself isn't a home-made construction and as such shouldn't be any less safe than the internal-combustion production car itself.
    The Tesla is no doubt the more complete product, but then that's to be expected for an MSRP of over $100k...

  14. i am not sure how conversions are easier than evs. with an ev, you simply go to the dealer and buy one. almost every company now is coming out with one. and in no time at all, they will be coming out with multiple models.
    i would go so far as to say it is absolutely silly to do your own conversion, unless you have a very SPECIFIC REASON.
    it is highly unlikely that a conversion will be in the same class, quality wise, as a car that has been engineered from the get-go to be an ev.
    as each year goes by, one will have more and more and more choices. although frankly, we have too many choices now with gas cars. we would be a lot better off with about 1/3 as many models, and with those models having more sales, and more interchangeable parts.
    at least with evs, there are a lot less parts to begin with.

  15. @ ev enthusiast - I'm not sure where I mentioned that it's easier to convert than to buy from the manufacturer? I did say it's cheaper, which is true for the most part, but "ease" is one of those things that varies from person to person. I'm quite sure I'm not technically minded enough to convert an EV myself!
    As for quality, that depends on the conversion, but then you can relate that back to price again. If you put $30k into converting a car I'm sure that it'd be of fairly high quality.
    I'm not advocating the conversion route but for some people it's the perfect option, not to mention the enjoyment it brings them, no different from that of making a kit car.

  16. This is truly spectacular, no matter what driving and weight saving tricks they had to do to get it done. Credit where credit is due.
    Congratulations JEVC. Well done!

  17. hi antony,
    my comment was in regard to post 13, where he says "Conversions are a lot easier than production EVs".

  18. As for how long it takes to charge, it has a 74kwh pack which is a touch more than double the pack in my MINI-E (35)CHarging at 50amps it takes me 3.5 hours to completely charge a depleted battery. That's because the MINI can charge at 11kwh. It would depend on how robust the on board charger on this EV is. If it were the same as the MINI-E's then it would charge in 7-7.5 hrs.

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