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Japan’s emergency option: A power station on wheels

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Ever since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan has been faced with the challenge of finding a future power mix that is not only nuclear-lite – all but two of the country’s 54 nuclear reactors have been shut down “for inspection or maintenance” in the past year, and a recent survey found a strong majority of Japanese favour the complete phasing-out of nuclear – but which can be relied upon in the event of another catastrophe.

Enter the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. The car CleanTechnica has described as a “super-cute all-electric” has been designed by the Japanese automaker with more than just green driving in mind. Indeed, as of April 27, 2012, buyers of the i-MiEV will have the option of buying the MiEV power BOX: a “relatively small and rather inconspicuous little white box,” says CleanTechnica, that plugs into the i-MiEV’s quick-charge outlet and channels power from the car’s battery, converting it into AC 100V, with up to 1500W available.

The technology – available through Mitsubishi dealers in Japan for ¥149,800, or about $US1821 – basically converts the i-MiEV into a mobile power station, the main use for which would be during emergency situations when no other power is available or when the power grid is experiencing peak demand.

And with Japan’s remaining two operational nuclear reactors scheduled to be shut down by early May – which means potential power shortages this summer – Mitsubishi’s timing with the roll-out of this technology looks to be spot on.

According to the car maker, when the i-MiEV’s battery is fully charged the 11.3kg power BOX can provide five or six hours in a row of constant energy. And it says that 1,500 watts is enough to power a typical Japanese household for a full day. But Mitsubishi also warns that everyday use could eventually have a negative effect on the vehicle’s battery pack.

So, as CleanTechnica’s Charis Michelsen points out, while the MiEV power BOX is “definitely not a cheap option… it’s very simple and very effective; it makes it that much easier to use the i-MiEV as an incredibly versatile and mobile power source. It also highlights one of the many things I love about electric cars — it’s more than just a car.”  

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  • Bruce Armstrong

    My local professor of robotics and electric vehicles was discussing this at a meeting recently. He was in germany a few months back and noted that there were a number of issues that made widespread adoption of this impractical in the medium term.

    As mentioned, this has to do with the durability of a vehicle traction battery. Imposing extra charge/discharge cycles on the battery will significantly shorten its working life.

    For iMiev, the isses may be severe because the battery ‘wear’ is non-linear with respect to depth of discharge (DOD), deeply disharging (to 90%) is much more damaging than a shallower discharge (to 70%), and probably dominated by other factors if DOD is less than 50%, so the iMiev with it’s smallish battery (16 kilowatt hours) may suffer severely if this inverter is used each day.

    Another problem is that the energy need is probably early evening, when the car’s battery will be depleted from the day’s use. Drawing extra energy from the battery at this stage would result in a deep discharge cycle, so the story above understates the effect

    I believe that doubling the battery capacity would make batteries on wheels a lot more practical, but to oheavy with current technology.

    This will require a major technological change in batteries occur. The research for this is currently underway with hints that advanced batteries may have specific energy (charge capacities) 4-5 times that of today’s LiFePo based batteries. We are likely to see results mid-decade.