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Drivers Easily Adapt to Electric Cars

<p>Research from Mitsubishi confirms drivers are comfortable with charging times and happy to take electric vehicles on motorways.</p>

[Editor's note: This article originally appeared at BusinessGreen and is reprinted with permission.]

Initial results from a long-term study of electric vehicle use has revealed that drivers use the cars in a similar way to their petrol equivalents and have shown little evidence of falling victim to much-feared "range anxiety."

In fact, the study revealed the majority of journeys taken by electric vehicle owners were less than five miles and also confirmed that when they do take longer journeys, usage patterns allow plenty of time for recharging.

The research, which was released yesterday, details the first results from a £25m project backed by the U.K.'s Technology Strategy Board and designed to assess the real world viability of electric cars.

The first wave of data was provided by the Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Vehicle Demonstrators (CABLED) consortium, which is testing around 110 vehicles as part of the research project. Led by engineering consultants Arup, CABLED is the largest of eight consortia participating in the competition and the first to begin practical trials.

The results made public this week relate to 25 Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicles (i-MiEVs), which were given to members of the project last December as part of the year-long trial. The cars have been fitted with tracking devices that allow them to automatically send usage information every minute while the ignition is on and every 15 minutes while parked.

The initial results suggest that motorists do not need to adapt their driving habits when using the car.

For example, the trials show that electric vehicle drivers are happy to take the iMiev on the motorway, and find it easy to recharge the vehicle when necessary. "Vehicles are parked for 97 percent of the time, typically overnight and during school hours, allowing lengthy battery charging periods at home and work," the report stated.

It also addressed technical concerns that electric vehicles could see their performance compromised in cold temperatures, revealing that the cars worked well in temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees over the winter.

Researchers working on the trial said that the use of the vehicle primarily for short journeys would enhance its environmental benefits as petrol engines and catalytic converters both take time to warn up and are at their mopst inefficient on short journeys.

"The i-MiEV is certainly proving itself in real-world tests," said Lance Bradley, Mitsubishi Motors' managing director. "It is interesting that the British motorists involved in this trial don't seem to be showing any significant signs of 'range anxiety' and are using their cars just as they would a normal vehicle."

His comments were echoed by Arup's Neil Butcher, who is acting as project leader for the CABLED consortium: "Vehicles are quick and easy to plug in and this becomes a habit, even if the battery is still mostly full; so vehicles are usually fully charged at the start of the day."

Five other manufacturers within the CABLED consortium will roll out vehicles later this year including Mercedes Benz/smart, Tata, Jaguar/Land Rover, LTI and Microcab industries.

The research came as the European Commission this week introduced new proposals designed to improve the safety of electric vehicles while also reducing red-tape that could hamper the adoption of zero emission vehicles.

The Commission said the new safety rules would protect electric vehicle owners from the risks of electrocution. "Electric power trains operate at high voltage levels (500 Volts)," the commission said in a statement. "The aim of the European Commission's proposal ... is to ensure that all electric vehicles marketed in Europe are constructed according to a common safety standard and thereby protecting vehicle users from getting into contact with high voltage parts of the vehicle."

The EC also announced plans to merge its rules on electric cars with those of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to help reduce the bureacracy manufacturers face when seeking safety approval for a new vehicle.

"I am pleased that we are reducing red-tape by eliminating what in reality is a double-burden for industry when it comes to car type approval," said EC vice-president Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship.

In other news, Scandinavian electric vehicle maker THINK announced yestereday that it has incorporated lithium-ion batteries into its THINK City EVs in Europe for the first time.

The company said the 22kWh batteries, which are being supplied by Ener1 subsidiary, EnerDel, could be charged up to 80 percent capacity in just 15 minutes.

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