Mitsubishi Recalls 14,700 Electric Vehicles

In yet another body blow for the electric vehicle industry it was today revealed that Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is recalling 14,700 electric vehicles due to brake problems. These issues are exclusively associated with the company’s electric vehicles and even though this recall is relatively small compared to the number of petrol vehicles which have been recalled over the years it is still around 50% of overall sales of these particular vehicles.

What cars are being recalled?

The company has revealed that 3,400 i-MiEV EVs and 2,400 MINICAB-MiEV vehicles have been recalled in Japan with around 8,900 i-MiEV vehicles also being recalled in Europe. While there have been no accidents directly associated with the ongoing brake problem the company has obviously erred on the side of caution with regards to such an important aspect of the vehicle. It is believed that only one particular part of the braking system has been found to have problems and this will be relatively easy for the company to fix once the cars have been recalled.

What is the cost of this recall?

While the number of vehicles set to be recalled is relatively small, and the direct financial implications are relatively minor in the overall picture, it is more the image of the company and EVs which will suffer. If you look back towards the end of 2012 we had the issue of the Nissan Leaf battery problem which was headline news for some time and did more damage to the electric vehicle industry. This fresh issue will be headline news for the next few days at a time when the electric vehicle industry is looking to penetrate the worldwide consumer sector.

Does this impact Mitsubishi’s electric vehicle strategy?

While there is no doubt this has done short-term damage to the reputation of Mitsubishi it is also worth noting that the company has erred on the side of caution and recalled these vehicles before there have been any accidents. The issue itself relates to the distance at which a vehicle will travel when under braking which has been extended due to problems with an electric pump. Historically we have seen scandals in other areas of the automobile industry where issues and problems have been ignored for some time but Mitsubishi has reacted as soon as possible.

In some ways we should be taking our hats off to the company for the speed at which it has reacted, the fact that no accidents have been directly linked the problem and the fact that vehicles will be repaired at no cost to the owner.

One step forward, two steps back with the electric vehicle industry

At this moment in time it seems as if the electric vehicle market takes one step forward and two steps back with a number of high-profile issues having grabbed the headlines. This does mask to a great extent developments in technology and battery power which have made the modern-day electric vehicle very different to that of its counterpart just 10 years ago or even five years ago. Once these “issues” have been ironed out then we should see more positive feedback and more positive headlines about the industry although at the moment Mitsubishi Electric Vehicles are certainly grabbing more than their fair share of media attention.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see how consumers react to this latest difficulty with an electric vehicle as it does nothing for the sector’s public relations. It is very easy to get scared about certain issues such as this announced by Mitsubishi but the fact is that the company highlighted the problem, there have been no accidents and all vehicles affected have been recalled. Whether the speed at which new electric vehicles are released to the market slows down in the short to medium term, with perhaps more safety checks and testing required, remains to be seen.

Electric Vehicle History

Electric vehicles have been around for many years, even though the general public think that electrically powered vehicles are a recent invention. This is because only in recent years these type of vehicles have become more widely known due to being considered as possible alternatives to vehicles powered by combustion engines in an effort to reduce emissions that contribute to Global warming.

An electrically powered small scale model car invented in 1828 in Hungary is considered by many as being the first invented electric vehicle. Others consider an electric powered carriage invented in the 1830’s in Scotland by Robert Anderson as the first electrical powered vehicle. Another small scale electric car was designed by Professor Stratingh and built by Christopher Becker, his assistant, in Holland in 1835. Thomas Davenport also built a small electric car in 1835. He also invented the first DC motor built in the US.

Unfortunately battery technology was not advanced enough to justify further development of these type of vehicles back then. It was not until the late 1890’s that the first true passenger electric vehicle was built by William Morrison in the US. In fact in the years 1899 and 1900 more electric vehicles were sold than other types of vehicles like gasoline and steam powered vehicles in the US.

In the 1900’s electric powered vehicles had many advantages as compared to their competitors. They didn’t have the smell, vibration as well as noise as did the gasoline vehicles. Also, changing gears on gasoline vehicles was the most complicated part of driving, while electrical automobiles did not require gear changes. Steam-powered cars additionally had no gear shifting, but they suffered from long start-up times of up to 45 minutes on cold early mornings.

Steam vehicles had less range before requiring water than an electric vehicle’s range on a single charge. The best roads of the period were in town, restricting most travel to local commuting, which was well suitable for electric vehicles, since their range was limited. The electric car was the preferred alternative of many because it did not require to manually turn the hand crank to start the engine as the gasoline vehicles needed and there was no wrestling with a gear shifter to change gears.

During World War I, the cost of petrol went through the roof contributing to the popularity of electric cars. This lead to the development of the Detroit Electric which started production in 1907. The car’s range between battery recharging was about 130km (80 miles). The range depended on exactly what type of battery came with the vehicle. The typical Detroit Electric was actually powered by a rechargeable lead acid battery, which did exceptionally well in cold weather.

But the popularity of the electric car quickly came to an end. With better roads being built not only within cities, but also connecting them, the need for longer range vehicles grew. This made the electric car an impractical means of transportation. Also the newly discovered oil in the state of Texas in the US which brought the price of gas down considerably, along with the electric starter invention in 1912 which eliminated the need for a hand crank, made the gasoline vehicle the vehicle of choice. And with Henry Ford making them extremely affordable to the general public by mass producing them, the fate of the electric vehicle was sealed for many years.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s that electric vehicles started resurfacing. With the Global warming issue, the exorbitant prices of imported crude oil and legislation for smog reduction in cities, electric vehicles not only resurfaced but this time are here to stay. One of the main reasons contributing to the re-birth of the electric car is the advance in battery technology. The lithium-ion battery packs and the nickel metal hybrid battery packs are much lighter than previous batteries and can hold enough charge to power a vehicle for 100’s of Miles at high speeds between charges making electrical vehicles efficient and practical.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle – Down to the Parts

With all the great news from the auto industry introducing another hybrid vehicle or another electric vehicle, this article explores a bit what such vehicles are made of. What are the differences with the conventional petrol car and what might the future hold for them?

The first difference you see these days is that both the electric vehicle and the hybrid vehicle come with a plug to charge it at home; the conventional vehicle has not. The conventional vehicle also has no electric engine to power the wheels or a large battery to power this engine. The conventional car of course does have a battery, but that is just used for starting the internal combustion engine and it acts as a buffer for the electrical systems used. Power in the conventional vehicle is generated by the combustion engine.

For an electric vehicle, there are two main components: the electric motor and the battery. The electric motor is the one to power the wheels of the vehicle and the battery is used to bring along energy for the trip. They almost all have the option of regenerative braking, which allows one to recover energy when slowing down and charging the battery a little while doing so. This is a great method to increase the overall efficiency for a vehicle! Further more there is often a special battery management system (BMS) which ensures the battery is kept at the right temperature and is not charged or discharged in a way that can damage the battery.

For a hybrid vehicle there are a few more main components: besides the electric motor and the battery, there is also an onboard power source like the conventional combustion engine (but also a fuel cell is used for example). Additionally, there is a system that somehow connects the power from the battery and the for example combustion engine and gets it to the wheels. There are many ways to do this last step, the simplest being that the combustion engine would be used as a generator to power the electric motor with electricity. Excess electricity is stored in the battery for future use. Another method is to have a special gear set combine the mechanical power from the combustion engine and the electric engine and get them to the wheels. There are also manufacturers who power one set of wheels with the combustion engine and the other set of wheels with the electric engine. A big advantage of the hybrid vehicle is that it can use the very efficient electric engine at lower speeds (for example urban areas) and the combustion engine for extra power on the highways or for extra range.

To sum it up, an electric vehicle consists of:

– Electric Engine
– Battery

A hybrid vehicle consists of:

– Electric Engine
– Battery
– Energy source (internal combustion engine, fuel cell, etc)

The disadvantages of the electric vehicle and the hybrid are mostly the cost. Compared to the conventional car they can cost more to purchase. This has two main reasons; the first being that the conventional car is mass-manufactured which makes it cheaper (compare one million units produces versus one thousand units produced) and the second is the current price of batteries. Batteries at the moment are the biggest cost within the vehicle, the larger your battery is, the larger the cost is in the total price of the vehicle.

Another disadvantage which currently mostly applies to the electric vehicle, is the range it can cover. Current vehicles are of such a weight and their batteries can only hold a certain amount of power. Comparing the electric vehicle to a conventional petrol car they can cover a lot less ground on a full charge or tank. The first argument to counter this disadvantage is that most people do not drive distances that can not be covered by an electric vehicle. Current electric vehicles can cover about double or four times the daily distance required by many people! However, there are three movements currently helping to overcome the range anxiety problem. The first is the battery manufacturer, which improves the technology so that the battery will weigh less and can contain more power. The second is the charging industry, where solutions are found in fast charging. Conventional charging can take up to eight hours to charge your vehicle. The goal is to reduce this to an acceptable amount of mere minutes. The third force is heading for battery swapping; much like a petrol station, an electric vehicle can swap the empty battery for a fully charged one.

For the future of the electric vehicle and the hybrid there are many options, the most popular ones are:

– Fuel Cells
– Fast Charging of batteries
– Better batteries that weigh less and hold more power
– Battery swapping stations
– New car design options

Lots to expect from the electric vehicle and the hybrid vehicle!