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Tim O'Brien | Aug 6, 2010

How dopey is the Australian mainstream press? Yesterday, a number of TV and radio news bulletins around the country hailed the arrival of Mitsubishi’s remarkable i-MiEV. You probably heard it.

Such was the importance of the arrival that Victorian Premier, Mr John Brumby (and his entourage) met the first 20 i-MiEVs as they rolled off the docks to make a convoy.

“The first all-electric vehicle on sale in Australia,” the stories ran – and kept running through the evening.

Wow. Great… except it’s wrong. (It’s amazing the power of a press release when no-one notices the qualification or bothers to check the facts.)

“It is the first time a number of commercially viable, fully electric powered vehicle produced by a major car manufacturer will take to Australia’s roads for full-time duty on government and corporate fleets,” the Mitsubishi press release ran.

Ah yes, the qualification: “produced by a major manufacturer”.

And Governments and Government departments up and down the land, and a bunch of universities and corporates, in a welter to be seen to be supporting EV technology and of “doing something positive for the environment”, have lined up to buy/lease no less than 110 of the new i-MiEVs to press them into service in their fleets.

Great. And why wouldn’t Governments do that? After all, that’s showing leadership. But riddle me this Batman: why the fuss over the i-MiEV and why not a similar fuss over a small Australian company that has been producing, and selling, exactly the same all-electric product for a number of years?

So let’s set the record straight: well done Mitsubishi on getting the i-MiEV all-electric vehicle here, and in increased numbers, but, no, you are not the first.

That accolade belongs to the Castlemaine-based Victorian company responsible for the Blade Electron. It is based on a Hyundai Getz. Ross Blade’s company takes the petrol engine out and replaces it with an efficient electric motor.

And dozens of them have been sold right around Australia.

In February 2010 Blade was the first Australian manufacturer to achieve a low volume licence for up to 100 all-electric vehicles per year. It was also first to crash-test a modern electric vehicle, first to have it eligible for registration and first to make it available for general sale.

Unlike the i-MiEV, the electric motor and battery system can be serviced by any qualified auto electrician.

The Blade uses larger prismatic battery cells. “There's 56 of them, and if any of them fails, an auto electrician can open it up and replace the cell."

“Replacing a cell costs $140, plus labour,” Ross Blade said.

The Blade Electron is based on the Hyundai Getz, more than 100,000 of which have been sold in Australia.
The Blade Electron is based on the Hyundai Getz, more than 100,000 of which have been sold in Australia.

And you, and me, and all those Government departments and corporates and universities that so desperately need an i-MiEV or two around the place, can order one (or ten or twenty) now.

It was not only first, but the remarkable Electron can be charged from a simple household socket, has a range of 100km (comparable to the i-MiEV’s claimed 100-160km), is a match in on-road performance, and, at $48,000, costs around 2/3 the price of the Mitsubishi.

Too bad our State and Federal Governments, and the geniuses giving them advice, are as blithely unaware of what’s happening right under their noses as our ill-informed mainstream press.

And how much would it benefit this remarkable company – and this country – if the Government purchase of the 100 or so i-MiEVs it ordered from Mitsubishi was instead directed to purchase of the Blade?

No wonder Australian business thinks we’re governed by dunces.

TIM O’BRIEN
[email protected]

The Motor Report
A 'top ten' Australian automotive news and reviews website (Nielsen)
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