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The generator on this Freightliner can recharge the i-MiEV in 30 minutes. (Michael Vaughan for The Globe and Mail)
The generator on this Freightliner can recharge the i-MiEV in 30 minutes. (Michael Vaughan for The Globe and Mail)

Green Highway

With a little help, electric car tackles cross-Canada tour Add to ...

Mitsubishi Motors is in the process of being the first to drive an all-electric car across Canada - from Atlantic to Pacific.

The car is the production version of the i-MiEV. In Japan the "i" is Mitsubishi's little four-passenger car with a three-cylinder, 650-cc gas engine behind the rear seat. The i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) pulls out the engine, gas tank and transmission and sticks in a single electric motor mounted on the rear axle and a lithium-ion battery pack of 88 cells.

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Mitsu has put about 1,600 of these electric cars on the road in Asia and plans to begin selling them in limited quantities in Canada at the end of next year.

Andrew Bardwell is driving the Mitsubishi i-MiEV across Canada.

Andrew Bardwell is at the wheel for most of the i MiEV's 7,500-km Canadian trip. He says he has the pioneering spirit about this trip. The maximum range of the car between recharging is 125 km. "That's a lot of recharging," says Bardwell, "but it gives you an opportunity to relax."

Recharging takes 14 hours from a 110-volt wall plug, 7 hours from a 220 volt drier plug and as little as 30 minutes from a quick charging station. Fortunately, a massive Freightliner accompanies the i-MiEV on its cross country trek carrying a great, big generator. "In the middle of nowhere, we use a Direct Current Quick Charger to get us up to 80 per cent power in about 30 minutes."

Tomoki Yanagawa , vice-president of sales, marketing, planning at Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada, says the i-MiEV is "definitely" going on sale in Canada next year. "We expect to bring the price in at between 30 and 40 thousand dollars in Canada."

I took the i-MiEV for a test spin during its Toronto stopover and can attest that this is a peppy and comfortable car that has no difficulty keep up with highway traffic. With zero tail pipe emissions, in fact zero tailpipe, it seems like a great choice for limited city commuting.

For the cross-Canada tours I hope there's a recharging infrastructure built out some day. It's slightly counter-productive to travel with your own Freightliner as backup power. That's the price of pioneering, I guess.

CHARGING STATIONS IN MANHATTAN PARKING LOTS

As if you don't pay enough to park in New York, soon you'll be able to pay more to recharge your electric car while it sits.

Up to 200 parking lots are getting charging stations through the Car Charging Group, a company that will install the chargers and maintain them, sharing the profits with the lot owners. The suggested price is $3 for one hour of charging.

The chargers will be the 220-volt dryer plug variety - not the Direct Current Quick Charging version carried on the back of the Freightliner above.

ETHANOL CONTROVERSY

The Obama administration is considering whether to allow ethanol blends of up to 15 per cent for vehicle use. Most gas pumps in the U.S. already sell E10, which is 10 per cent ethanol.

Now the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing most of the big auto makers, is asking U.S. Congress to hold hearings. Engine producers -- not just the car makers, but snowmobile, garden equipment and boating manufacturers, too - say the higher ethanol blends could damage engines.

There could be a compromise. The American Coalition for Ethanol, the National Corn Growers Association and the Renewable Fuels Association have asked for approval of E12, a 12 per cent ethanol blend, as an interim step. A decision is expected by the end of September. Congress has already ordered the use of nearly 12 billion gallons of ethanol this year, rising to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

The real cost of car ownership

The sticker price is only the starting point. Do you know what you really pay for your vehicle?

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