Summer’s back! This means changing back to summer tyres, removing the dieseasel air heater, and enjoying the fact that winter is long gone. Ahhh, longer days, more electric car range, and enjoying the great outdoors. All those things would be possible, if only winter hadn’t returned with a dumping of snow two weeks later…
Winter in the middle of summer. Thanks, climate change.
Fortunately it was short-lived, and summer soon returned. This meant finally getting outdoors, and what better way to get outdoors than with an electric hybrid bicycle?
This bike is really earning its keep.
To be honest, I don’t use the electric mode often, because that sort-of defeats the point of biking around, but sometimes you come across those hills that just don’t end and the fun starts to drain away. That’s when I press the power button a couple of times, giving me a little power boost. Then a smile races across my face as all the agony vanishes and the joy of biking returns.
Seriously, if you’re thinking of buying a hybrid bike, do it! They’re fantastic. It’s cycling, without the ugly bits!
Now, on to the most interesting thing from this particular chapter in Kiwi EV history…
The road trip to end all road trips?
As you’ll hear me say in the entertaining video at the bottom of this page, electric car long distance road trips are so over done. Everyone (including me) has done them to the point of boredom. Enough with the road trips, already.
But what do we put in their place? How do I keep you, the discerning viewer, entertained in the hope that you’ll share my videos? Well, I came up with a brilliant idea: a race across the country.
For the 480 kilometre (300 mile) journey, I’ll be taking my zippy little electric city car while Veronika will be taking an express train! The clincher? The loser has to buy dinner!
The great race begins!
With a three hour time advantage, I jumped behind the wheel of my little electric car and took off, racing across the country while Veronika could only sit and wait for the train.
Electric car vs train: who will win?
For the first half of the race, I would be cutting across the centre of the country, while Veronika would be taking an InterCity express train up and around the country. We planned to make it to Košice for dinner, sometime around 6pm.
I got to see a lot of Slovakia on the journey.
The race was mine to win, providing nothing went wrong or no chargers were blocked or out of order. In fact, I’d already made it to Zvolen in central Slovakia before Veronika had even made it onto the first train, which would take her to Bratislava Main Station. From there, she would be catching up as she didn’t need to stop and recharge, but I still had a 200 kilometre (124 mile) lead at this point!
The High Tatra Mountains. What a view!
Despite the lead, it would be easy for Veronika to catch up. This is because my electric car is only designed to travel within the city. It has a small 16 kWh battery pack and it’s not very aerodynamic at high speed.
Now I have a bold claim: in the city, my car is king. I would argue it’s better than any Tesla model in that area due to its nimble, narrow size and low power consumption. I can park anywhere in the city and squeeze through gaps in traffic that other cars struggle with. It’s unbeatable in the concrete jungle.
But on the highways a Tesla, or any long-range electric car, eats it for breakfast. It’s simply not designed for long distance driving. This does make such journeys more fun, however! So, as I raced along the top of the country, Veronika began catching up. At this point I still had a massive lead. Although just before my final quick-charge in the eastern city of Prešov, tragedy struck…
I found myself stuck in incredibly thick traffic in Prešov for 40 minutes which meant I couldn’t get to the charger. This, coupled with a failed shortcut to circumnavigate the lines of cars, then missing a crucial off-ramp meant I had no choice but to attempt the journey all the way to Košice without that desperately needed quick charge.
The Kiwi EV grabbing a top-up…. at a gas station.
With just 14 kilometres to go until the restaurant, I was forced to stop and refill for 30 minutes at a gas station. It was either that or run out on the highway. With Veronika’s train right on my tail, I grabbed as much power as I could in the short time available and carried on my way to Košice city…
We made it to beautiful Košice in time for dinner… but who won? Did the traffic and slow charging cost me the race, or was Veronika doomed to fail because of her having to wait three hours for her train to leave?
Well, this turned out to be one of the most exciting and turbulent Kiwi EV video adventures yet, so enjoy it by pressing play on the video below.
Just a friendly reminder: I make no money from these videos; they’re purely to inform and entertain. All I ask, is that if you think your friends might enjoy this video, please share it with them. Thank you!
“You’ll have to replace your battery every three years in an electric car,” screamed the naysayers. “The batteries will be thrown in a landfill,” they yelled, pretending to care about the environment in an attempt help their pro-coal, pro-oil arguments.
How much would a new battery pack cost?
Fast forward a few years and we’re all laughing at how crazy those anti-electric car guys sounded, now that electric cars have won. But the thing is, we still don’t know how long electric car batteries should really last.
New electric cars like the Hyundai Ioniq have “Lifetime” guarantees on their battery packs (covering battery failure, not normal battery degradation) but my 2011 Peugeot Ion is quite a bit older, with an older battery chemistry.
When new, my electric car was given a 5 year/50 000 km battery warranty. Obviously that has expired now, which means if I have any battery problems, I’m on my own. This made me wonder: how much is a replacement battery pack for a Mitsubishi iMiEV / Peugeot iOn / Citreon C-Zero?
I love my electric car but how long can it last?
My 2011 car cost me €7000 back in the summer of 2015. For a modern, nimble electric car with all the options, that was a bargain price. Actually, it’s still a good price. But there’s always been the curious question in the back of my mind: how much does a replacement battery pack really cost?
To find out, I emailed my local Peugeot dealer. Now, keep in mind they quoted me €600 for a replacement carpet, so I was expecting the worst!
Naturally, when the email came back with the answer, I held my breath…
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV replacement battery price is…
Crikey. That’s ridiculous. Peugeot say that a replacement battery pack for my electric car would cost me €18,510 ($19,577 US). A massive sum for a small car. Of course there are other options, such as trying other dealers or buying straight from Mitsubishi, or buying a used/wrecked car and taking out its battery, so I’m not too worried.
But this ordeal led me to my next question: what is the real condition of my electric car’s battery?
You can get the EVBatMon application from Google Play.
The best way to find this out is to download the mobile phone application EVBattMon and connect it to your car’s OBDII socket under the dashboard.
Battery degradation in my electric car
In the above picture there are two screenshots of the battery. The left picture is the condition of my battery in August 2016. On the right is now, February 2017. If you look at the Amp hours (Ah) rating of the pack (top left) of each screenshot, you can see the real condition of the battery.
When new, the battery pack would have shown somewhere around 46 Ah on the application. In those five and a half years, it’s therefore lost about a fifth of it’s capacity. In six months you can actually see the battery has reduced a tiny fraction, comparing the two charts.
Personally I haven’t noticed any loss of battery capacity because I received the car when it already four years old. Also, its range is still much more than what I need for my daily driving, so I have no range anxiety in my daily life, and thanks to the installation of a diesel heater, no “heat anxiety” either!
Despite its age, my electric car is doing just fine. It’s just a better form oftransport in any city. It’s clean, cheap, and in our noisy world, wonderfully quiet. And this got me thinking of a cool new design for a rear window sticker, saying Electric vehicle – Enjoy the silence.
Time to get creative…
So I got busy creating it on my computer and sent it to my trusty screen-printer in the city to be made into a self-adhesive vinyl cut-out. Less than a day later, it was ready to pick up and chuck on the car!
Electric vehicle – enjoy the silence
I don’t like blowing my own trumpet, but that looks freaking awesome.
If you want to download the sticker design, you can do so by right-clicking this picture below, and selecting “Save as”. Save it to your computer and then email it to a local print shop.
Electric Vehicle – Enjoy the silence: right-click and save this file.
The image is a .png file which has a transparent background, so your local print shop will have no problem reproducing it.
Mine cost €6 each and I had two made, just in case I screwed one up during the application. I recommend you make two for this reason. The size of mine is 50 cm wide x 30 cm high (20 x 12 inches).
Enjoy the silence: the ultimate electric car sticker
So, armed with my new window sticker, and knowing all too well about my battery’s natural degradation, we did the illogical thing: we jumped in the car for winter road trip and headed to the mountains.
The skis fit inside the electric car… just.
We loaded up the car with skis and hit the road early on a Saturday morning, departing at 5:30 AM. The reason we left so early is because we decided to play the day on “hard mode”. Getting to the ski field in the mid-morning, doing a day’s worth of skiing, then driving home in the evening.
This meant it was going to be a very long and tiring day, but we wanted to see if it was possible. With money as tight as ever, we also wanted to save money by not having to pay for accommodation!
Winter sucks: even quick charging takes longer.
Our first stop of many was in the city of Trnava, 69 kilometres (48 miles) away. Now, normally this stretch of highway leaves me with with a little bit of charge left in the battery, maybe 3 or 4 bars.
In winter however, we arrived to the charger with only 1 bar remaining. A troubling sign of things to come.
The electric car is recharging and so are we (with coffee).
We recharged with coffee while the car recharged with electrons, all while the sun began to rise behind the grey clouds. Meanwhile, my little diesel heater was still running in the car, keeping it toasty for when we returned – all without making a dent in the car’s range.
Stop number 2: Piešťany
The next stop in the journey was in the town of Piešťany. In summer we probably could have skipped this stop, but in winter I quickly learned that we had about 20% less range at our disposal.
Our destination: Vratna in northern Slovakia.
After stopping at a quick-charger located in a truck stop, we made use of a charger in a town called Nová Dubnica. Now, technically we didn’t need to stop here, but because this was really uncharted territory and because the charger was listed as free to use (and because I was curious) we pulled off the highway and hunted for the charger.
We found a free quick-charger in the middle of nowhere!
From here on, things were pretty routine. We drove, we recharged, we drove, we recharged, and after many, many hours we made it to Žilina, 218 kilometres (135 miles) from home.
Unfortunately… from this point on, things didn’t go so well. In fact, our GPS caused us another hour of delays, our diesel heater ran out of fuel and we grew more grey hair. The video at the bottom of the page gives you a better sense of what happened more than I could ever describe with words.
But… after (too) many hours we eventually climbed up the mountain road to the skifield in Vrátna dolina, northern Slovakia, and we squeezed in some skiing.
We made it! We took our electric car to the mountains!
In a long-range EV this particular journey would have taken a couple of hours, instead of the six it took us. But I knew it would be harder so I was prepared for more effort.
There’s also a pioneering enjoyment factor to such a journey, that many motorists may not be able to understand. I mean, it’s so much more satisfying to drive a city EV a long way than it is to drive a long-range EV or internal combustion car the same distance, in exactly the same way that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car fast!
Our reward: skiing in the mountains.
We only managed to squeeze in two hours of skiing because of our unplanned GPS problem and overly conservative charging schedule, but it was still a great adventure. We arrived home late at night, exhausted but happy.
Now, of course this car wasn’t suitable for this journey, but I already knew that before I left. Also, some may think that this journey paints a negative light on our lower-range electric cars, but it’s not true. I think it shows how much is actually possible in an older EV, even in the worst possible conditions.
We covered 564 kilometres (350 miles) of the harshest, heaviest, coldest driving we’ve ever put the poor car through and it came out shining. I’m immensely proud of my little city EV for allowing us another awesome journey.
That’s the coolest electric car rear window sticker!
Now, what I’m really looking forward to is that increased summer range because I have some (much more fun) trips planned. Most importantly, trips that don’t involve diesel heaters!
Watch this space.
Click the play button below to watch the entire saga on video!
I did it! I made my diesel heater remote controlled! It was actually pretty easy, too!
The Kiwi EV – frozen in time in Slovakia
I like my little diesel heater. It works well and costs essentially nothing to operate, using around 500ml of diesel every week. The only downside is that it takes about 15 minutes to warm the car up when it’s below freezing outside.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, I like comfort. I like having my immediate climate temperature warm and toasty in the winter, and cool and crisp in the summer. So, back in autumn I decided to find a way to make my diesel heater remote controlled.
A 12 volt remote controlled relay
I bought the above 12 remote controlled relay and remote control from eBay, but I soon realised I don’t have the technical skill to tap into the circuit board on the diesel heater, and it cost so much money that I’m too scared to break it. This means I needed a more… physical method of turning on my heater.
The 12 volt actuators found in most modern cars
So I bought a couple of 12 volt door actuators (above). I only need one, but they were so cheap I decided to buy a couple in case I need one for a future project or perhaps one breaks.
Now, you can probably guess where this is going. I wanted to make a simple on-off circuit, whereby pressing the “on” remote button would push the actuator outwards, onto the heater’s “Power” button.
My remote controlled button pusher
From this point on it was a simple matter of connecting wires together and then aiming the button pusher above the button.
The radio controlled button pusher is ready to go!
Once I had the button presser in position, I moved the car onto the driveway so the fumes from the diesel heater don’t stink up the garage, then set up a camera inside the car to record whether it worked or not.
Ready for the first test.
With the car in position, I closed the garage door so I could test it from inside the house. I did this so it’s as realistic as possible, because if I ever use it, I’m not likely to actually be standing next to the car!
So, with a worried look on my face, and the diesel heater remote controlled (hopefully) I pressed the button.
Woohoo! The radio controlled heater activator works!
The car heated up nicely in the cold evening air, but I wanted to know if I could actually use it for something really useful: heating the car up from completely frozen. So I put the car outside for the night.
That’s one seriously frozen electric car.
The next morning the car was well and truly frozen, with the temperatures slipping to -6°C (21°F) during the night. This was unusual for my poor car, as it normally sits inside a nice, warm garage.
So, I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat in front of the computer and pressed the On button on the remote control…
Watching the car on the security camera.
I heard the pusher make a beeping noise through a mobile phone which was sitting inside the car. I added the beeping function so I could tell if it was pushing the button. It pushed the button just fine, but I couldn’t tell if it had started the heater. I think I need to set up a mobile phone with a camera inside the car.
The heater works yet again!
I had nothing to worry about though. With the diesel heater remote controlled, the heater burst into life and began warming up a seriously frozen little car. Good job.
After twenty minutes I jumped inside the car to discover it was toasty and warm, and all the ice on the windows had melted away. Mission accomplished.
For all of the above compacted into a short video, click the play button below:
Say what you will about internal combustion engines, but they produce a lot of heat for beating those winter chills. This means that I’ve mostly been warm for my 20+ years of driving and when I adopted my current electric car I just wasn’t prepared to give up comfort for the sake of extra range.
As you’ll know from my most recent Kiwi EV adventure, where I tried all manner of alternative car heating methods, nothing was quite as good as simply cranking up the car’s heater. But, boy, the car’s heater absolutely murders the car’s range. For example, as shown in the photo at the top of the page, a few days ago I needed to drive 87 km (54 miles) which is fine; my car can manage such a distance effortlessly… if I don’t use the car’s power-sucking heater, that is. So I made the snowy journey and subsequently froze.
My new diesel parking heater arrived! It looks terrified.
So imagine my joy when my new diesel parking heater arrived all the way from China! It’s a clone of an Eberspacher Airtronic D2 which I bought online for €350 ($380 USD).
My new diesel parking heater: an Eberspacher Airtronic D2 copy.
It burns diesel to blow hot air. I would have bought the diesel water heater, like many other Mitsubishi iMiEV / Citroen C-Zero / Peugeot iOn drivers, but the much higher cost (coupled with my modest income) simply wouldn’t allow it. The problem, however, is that no one’s installed a diesel air heater in an electric car yet, as far as I know. Being a pioneer is sometimes frightening!
Legal alien: an electric car buying gas?
First thing’s first: I needed diesel. Over the past three weeks I tried very hard to source biodiesel, because it’s less harmful to our fragile environment, however I hit a brick wall time and time again. I contacted three individual manufacturers of biodiesel, both in Slovakia and in Austria, and despite almost a dozen emails and three phone calls I was given the same answer: “no”.
Actually, to be honest, a couple of manufacturers demanded to know why I wanted their product before telling me they couldn’t help me. Two firms said they only sell to other suppliers, the third firm told me he’d get back to me “after checking with management”. He soon stopped responding to my emails. Honestly, I tried to do the right thing, but none of the biofuel companies would help me. So, I very reluctantly took my electric car to the local gas station and filled up a container with dirty, carcinogenic petrodiesel.
People actually start wars over this horrible stuff.
After not buying any gas or diesel for 16 months (and counting), my lovely wife Veronika took pity on me. She saw that I didn’t want to buy any fossil fuel, so she did a wonderful thing: she bought me the container of diesel as a gift. Now that’s true love.
The world’s most adorable little fuel tank!
In the meantime, my little fuel container also arrived. It holds around 1.5 litres (0.4 gallons) of fuel and I reckon it should offer enough juice to operate the heater for at least 3 hours.
A carbon monoxide detector. You can never be too careful.
I also bought a carbon monoxide detector, just in case. After nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide is the second greatest pollutant from burning diesel, so if any enters the cabin due to an exhaust problem, I’d like to know about it.
My diesel parking heater with the lid removed.
Before attempting to install the parking heater, I took the plastic cover off to figure out how it all works. Upon doing so I realised how incredibly simple it turned out to be.
The parking heater is remarkably simple.
Looking at the unit close-up, you can get a feel for how non-complex the system really is. Basically, how it works is this: the fuel enters the unit and is burned, making the finned part at the back get hot, then the exhaust is spat out through the exhaust pipe underneath the unit. Meanwhile, a fan pushes air over the finned parts, which gets nice and warm and heats up the cabin.
Did I mention how simple it is? That’s all there is to it!
I connected all the cables together and, as you can see in the above picture, there’s really not much to it. The electrical side is just a matter of connecting the positive and the negative to the car’s battery, then connecting the fuel bottle, then extracting the exhaust. It sounds so simple even I could do it!
The parking heater controller.
The controller which came with the unit it quite basic. It has three buttons on the bottom (Manual mode, Automatic mode, Off) and a turning knob to adjust the heating temperature.
The parking heater 12v fuel pump.
The other major component is the little fuel pump above. I don’t know if anyone’s ever said this about a fuel pump before, but it’s actually kinda adorable.
Though be warned: it’s not immediately clear in which direction the fuel pumps. There should be an arrow signalling the fuel flow direction but I couldn’t find it. I discovered upon testing it (and getting a splatter of diesel on my trousers) that the fuel comes out towards the power socket (to the left in the photo above).
So, time to connect it up and test it out!
Testing, one two three!
I put a little diesel into a jar and rested the heater on axle stands, with the exhaust aimed outside. I connected the system up to the car’s battery and pressed the “on” button…
And nothing happened. Well, it made a couple of whirring noises, then beeped “Error 1” at me, which means a power issue. That was odd. Also, why didn’t I hear the fuel pump clicking? Surely it’s not absolutely silent?
I dug around in the manual and found a special mode which forces fuel into the unit. I assumed that was the problem, so I pressed a button combo on the controller and… the pump started clicking quickly. The pump was quieter than I thought, but I guess that’s a good problem on an electric car.
After about 30 seconds of pumping, I could see the little fuel filter had filled up and fuel was entering the heater, so turned off the unit, took a deep breath, and then turned it onto manual mode…
Nothing happened for a few seconds. Then a whirring noise. Then a noise like a furnace starting up. Then a pile of black smoke started billowing from the exhaust pipe, before coming swiftly inside. Gah.
Excuse me, this area is non smoking.
I quickly opened up the main garage door to let the cancer out, but at that moment it burned off all the diesel and oil inside (from the factory, I assume) and started to run quite clean, with no visible smoke. I put the cover back on the top of the unit and the air was channelled over the finned area at the back of the heater, and out of the vent facing me.
The heat coming out of the unit was nice and hot. Hotter and faster than the same heat from the standard 2 kW fan heater I used to preheat the car.
This is good. It means it works. That was also the easy part. Now comes the really really hard part: deciding on where to install it in the car.
According to the brochure, this unit it designed to go inside cars, vans, boats and trucks – but will it fit in my electric car?
Would it fit in place of the glove box?
The first place I wanted to attempt was in place of the glove box, however it was doomed from the start. While the unit could physically fit inside the glove box, there were too many other problems – the largest being the routing of the hot exhaust.
As you can see in the photo above, the dashboards of the iMiEV are absolutely full. This meant that even if I could safely route the exhaust outside and away from melting passengers shoes, I’d still have the problem of installing ducting to channel the air towards me or the windscreen, and there’s simply not enough room to install a pipe anywhere in that jam-packed dashboard.
Another thing to remember, is that wherever I install this system, it has to be easily removable. In around 12 weeks I’m going to be taking it out again because it’ll be spring, so it has to be somewhere logical and safe.
The floor of the car’s cabin was also out of the question because 1: it’d intrude on passenger comfort, and 2: because of the battery under the centre of the car, I’d have to drill into/near the frame of the car to route the exhaust out.
It would be too dangerous to mount this indoor heating unit outside the car due to the risk of short circuit from water splashes and road salt, but I soon found a winner. Yes, crawling all over the car and trying numerous locations, I found the ideal place.
“He stood me up!”
I popped up to the hardware store and bought a bunch of strong, adjustable L-brackets so I could fashion a sturdy yet simple stand to hold the heater. The image above shows the unit incomplete, but you get the idea.
Then, after checking and rechecking, I grabbed the heater and the drill and started making holes!
In the boot: by far the best position.
Installing the parking heater in the boot (trunk) of the car was the logical choice for many reasons, from concerns about moisture, road salt, safety, convenience, comfort, removability, easy access in an emergency, ease of re-installation etc etc etc, you get the idea.
Doing it this way also allowed the fumes from the unit to be safely dispersed under the rear of the vehicle away from the passenger air intake. This was coincidentally the exact same place as where the exhaust pipe goes on the gas version of this car. It was a no-brainer, so I got busy installing it.
Crikey. An electric car with an exhaust pipe.
Installing the parking heater onto the motor cover was also a smart move in terms of motor and controller access, because you simply disconnect the exhaust pipe from the heater, and the entire cover (with heater bolted on) simply lifts upwards.
Almost done: connecting the heater cabling.
With the heater installed, I got busy wiring it up.
The next issue was where to put the fuel tank. I decided to go with convenience, so I mounted the fuel tank next to the heater unit, paying close attention to the exhaust pipe in the case of a diesel spill. Although diesel may not be as combustible as petrol or ethanol, I want it to be safe for the short time I have it in the car.
Let the testing begin: round two!
With the wiring connected and the fuel tank connected securely to the frame of the heater stand, I clamped and triple-checked all the fuel pipe connections.
Next comes the fuel, followed by outdoor testing. I added around a litre of diesel to the little tank and primed the system using the hidden fuel-pump only mode. Then, after many hours of careful work… I turned the unit on.
Success! Dirty, smokey success!
It works! It actually works!
I ran the unit on high mode for a good 30 minutes to burn off any residue and to monitor the effects of the hot exhaust in the two places where it has contact with metal. I was also paying close attention to the fuel tubing and its connections, ensuring no air was leaking in – and no fuel was leaking out.
There was a faint “cooking” smell (like an old engine) in the air inside the car, but it soon dispersed. I assume there was a thin film of oil or diesel on the exhaust.
After everything was running hot and clean, I let the unit power down and switched it off, then put the car back in the garage to check once again for fumes, heat induction and condensation. You might think I’m being pedantic, but flammable liquids in cars genuinely freak me out. You can’t be too careful.
Day two: testing continues.
The next day I continued testing in the daylight. Now I was able to experiment more, playing with the unit’s speed controller and thermostat. I ran the unit hard once again, but this time also let it idle at a constant temperature.
Once I was satisfied it was safe, I closed the doors and ran it as it’s intended, checking to see how well it heats up the interior. I’ll be honest: I was expecting the worst, considering it’s all the way down the back of the car. I expected it to be weak and… well, a waste of money.
But I was pleasantly surprised. After only about 15 minutes of the unit operating during a windy, chilly morning, the car’s interior had reached more than 35°C (95°F) which was completely unexpected – especially considering how far away it was from me. One thing that was noticeable however, is that the floor of the driver’s foot-well was colder than the rest of the car. This is something I’ll play with over the coming days, as the heater comes with a long heating extension pipe. I might try and run it under the driver’s seat to the foot-well.
And there you have it! I measured and cut out a hole into the car’s carpet and foam insulation, making sure it’s big enough for heat safety or in the event of shifting during bumpy roads. It’s also, just like the heater, easily removable.
At present the unit is consuming air from the cabin which seems to be fine as it’s a very small amount and I drive with the vents open anyhow. Having said that, I’m ready to install a vent hole below the unit if I find it necessary.
The verdict? So far so good. I’ve already driven around a fair amount with the unit running, stopping to check it regularly. Of course I have my nose checking the air constantly, along with the carbon monoxide detector, but I’m also carrying a smoke alarm for added safety and a dry-powder fire extinguisher.
After only four days of testing, I can tell you honestly that this diesel heater is like a range extender of sorts. My daily commute is around 35 kilometres (22 miles) with regular extra driving and errands, and seeing as I like to be warm, it means I regularly have the car’s heater going – if I know I’m not going to be driving outside of my normal circuit, that is. Unfortunately, the heater takes its toll on the battery. However, since installing the diesel heater, I can now be warm without range anxiety:
Electric vs diesel: the results speak for themselves.
The above picture shows my daily commute in cold weather, using the heater from a full charge (from home to work to home again). As you can see, the diesel heater means I can truly use my car in winter. No more gloves. No more woolly hats. No more shivering. I have an electric car, without any downsides. All thanks to a €330 Chinese heater.
After four days of thorough testing there are no issues to report as yet. I found a screw that had loosened itself after my twice-daily inspections, but other than that, its been smooth sailing. Testing will continue over the next few days and weeks as I learn more about the unit and the fuel system so watch this space. Oh, and remember, safety first!
As always, you can watch a video version of the entire saga below:
Note: For those interested, the heater I bought is available on the Chinese shopping site Aliexpress by clicking here. It was the cheapest example (including shipping) of any other diesel air heating option.
Also, I scanned the instruction manual for the Chinese-made diesel parking heater. If you wish to view or download it, click here.
In this latest chapter of my electric car adventures, I dive into the world of heating
Push, Max! Push!
In this latest chapter of my electric car adventures, I dive into the world of winter heating… without using electricity.
But first, I needed to remove some “apple juice” that this adorable stowaway had installed into the carpet.
The cute culprit
Yes, to my surprise, this cute little cat found itself trapped in my car for several hours and refused to come out. It tucked itself up under the dashboard, only stepping down to urinate on the carpet! So, I had to disassemble half the car to take the carpet out.
Time to disassemble the car…
With the carpet out, it gave me a great chance to see how the bare floor of the Mitsubishi iMiEV / Peugeot iOn / Citroen C-Zero looks.
Every inch is utalised in this little electric car.
In many cars you have unused space under the passenger seats but not in this one. Because of the batteries under the vehicle there’s not really any space for amplifiers or computers or any future gadgets.
With the carpet washed thoroughly (I also used a flower-scented fabric softener) it was hung up to dry on the fence while I got busy cleaning the floor of the car.
Now that’s a clean floor!
After vacuuming and washing the floor of the car, I also applied a little oil to help in protecting it against snowy shoes coated in road salt in the quickly approaching winter.
Once dry, I put the carpet back into the car and reassembled the interior. Everything went well, until (I think) I turned on the ignition before I’d plugged in the driver’s side airbag/seat belt pretensioner connector.
The ABS light blues…
This meant I had to take the car to the local Peugeot dealer to get the error codes reset. Let this be a lesson to you: if you unplug any SRS connectors, there’s a chance you might need to go to the dealer afterwards.
Resetting the error codes cost me just shy of €15 (just under $17 USD) so I just added it to my “life lessons” folder.
Preheating the electric car
Anyway, with winter quickly approaching, I needed to find a solution to a big problem from last winter: surviving in a cold car.
The problem is that the heater in my electric car uses a lot of electricity. In fact, on a cold winter day, the heater in my car can use as much as 30% of the battery’s total capacity! This means I needed to find ways to stay warm without using electricity. So, I looked around on the internet for all the crazy heating ideas people suggested.
It turns out that the internet has some terrible advice.
One of the worst ideas imaginable.
I tried preheating the car, wearing a blanket, dressing for the arctic, lighting candles, burning incense sticks, carrying hot bottles, having a very hot shower – even taking a cup of coffee with me – but nothing worked as well as simply running the car’s heater. Not only that, regardless of which method I attempted, the car was always cold at the end of the day in my work parking lot.
So… I looked at serious heating methods that (gasp!) burn fuel.
A diesel air heater (Left) and a gasoline water heater (Right).
The options are either to install a heating device which taps into the car’s existing water heating system or a heating device which blows hot air directly.
I wanted to install a water “parking heater” like friends Ben and Jarkko installed into their cars, but with heavy EU import taxes and having to relocate my car’s battery to make it fit, it would cost around €739 ($810 US).
There’s just no way I could afford that. Don’t forget that the average wage in Slovakia is around €850 ($947 US) per month. With my income and with two mortgages, there’s no way a liquid parking heater can be installed. End of story.
The only other option to warm the cabin like in a gas-powered car would be a diesel-powered air parking heater. At €457 ($501 US) it was still a lot of money but it would be the only thing I could afford. While a little simpler in principle, installation could be difficult. It would also mean trying to find a supplier of biodiesel in Slovakia. Talk about giving myself a challenge, huh?
My only option: a diesel air parking heater
So, after a few weeks of careful thought, I got out my credit card and… pressed the Buy Now button. As I type, my heater is on its way to my doorstep.
But have I made a big mistake? How will I install it exactly? Will I be able to find a renewable biodiesel fuel source? I have so many questions and I’ll find out soon enough.
Until then, check out the video version of my cat, carpet, and cold weather problems by pressing “play” below. If you found it interesting, share this page!
My car has now turned five years old! This is interesting for two reasons:
1: It’s still running fine on the original battery pack. This is surprising because according to obnoxious electric car critics from years ago, “Ya’ll need to replace ’em batteries every three years in one of ’em new-fangled electrical cars! Mark my words!” (best read in a yokel accent for maximum effect)
2: The warranty has now expired…. This means I can really start tinkering!
Out with the old…
A hardcore tinkerer friend of mine in Finland named Jarkko Santala discovered back in 2015 that there are extra ‘gears’ in the Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero, which offer different types of regenerative braking just like in the Mitsubishi iMiEV. He reported on it in his own blog here.
For some reason however the Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero were produced without these extra options of regenerative braking. All you have in these European clones of the iMiEV is Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive.
Watch out iMiEVs, here comes an iOn!
The thing is… those extra gear selections that the iMiEV has under “Drive” are actually there on the Peugeot and Citreon models, but they’re just blocked off with plastic!
So, this means all I need to do it remove the plastic which is preventing me from putting the gear shifter into B and C modes. Now, I’m not sure if this works on every model of Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero, but it certainly worked on mine, so here’s how I did it.
The process of accessing those extra regen braking speeds is really easy, so I hope these simple instructions will allow you to uncover them in your own electric car.
Start by popping out the plastic plugs securing the centre console
To begin, remove the plastic plugs holding in the centre console. To remove these (reusable) plugs, push the centre inwards with a small screwdriver, then the entire plug will pop out. Do this to both sides, near the floor.
Pop out these plugs on both sides.
Even with no mechanical ability, and even going at a slow, methodical pace, you can have those extra regen braking ‘gears’ available and working within 30 minutes. It’s such an easy job.
After removing the plastic plugs near the floor, remove the plastic panel in front of the parking brake. It simply pops upwards.
Pop out the plastic cover near the handbrake.
With that small panel panel removed, a screw will become accessible right behind the gear shifter plate.
Almost done: undo this screw…
Once you’ve undone the above screw, the only one remaining is in the rear passenger compartment down on the floor in the middle of the car, behind the front seats. It’s the last screw holding the centre console in place.
Now the fun part begins!
This is a good time to remove the gear knob by turning it anti-clockwise.
Then, with the centre console removed, unclip the gear shifter plate by prying out the four clips that secure it to the white cluster.
We’re almost halfway. You can almost taste the extra regen braking!
Now with the shifter panel naked and at your mercy, remove the little metal washer / disc on the bottom right of the above picture. It holds in a rod which secures the black shifter panel to the main white cluster.
Here’s a close-up of the little metal disc you need to remove.
Above is a better image of the disc which needs to be removed. It can be pried off with a small flat-head screwdriver.
The gear selector plate in the Peugeot iOn / Citroen C-Zero.
With that disc pried off, and the short metal rod removed, the black shifter panel (shown above) will lift straight off.
This is where you can see how it looks. Notice the “ice tray” effect on the bottom left of the panel where there would be extra gears on the Mitsubishi versions? That’s what we’re about to hack away at…
The other side of the gear shifter: see the part that’s blocked off?
The easy solution to removing the blocked-put plastic on the gear shifter is simply to use a drill to make new “slots” for the gear knob. Here’s the “after” shot:
The front: After drilling out the blocked plastic.
It was actually not scary at all, because I simply followed the pattern which Mitsubishi had provided when they made this car. Here’s the underside:
The back (upside down): Drilling it out was easy. You just follow the pattern.
I was worried I would make a mess of the thing but it was actually pretty easy. You just need to take your time, drill a little at a time, and try the plate out a few times in the car to monitor the progress.
What’s this? Extra regen modes?! Awesome!
At this point, it pays to turn on the ignition and check that the new “speeds” or “gears” are showing on the dashboard. It should show as B mode and C mode.
C mode is another one I’ve not seen before.
So far so good: everything’s looking great! Time to put the centre console back together.
The Mitsubishi iMiEV shifter plate, ready to go into my Peugeot iOn!
I discovered that there’s one last thing to keep in mind when installing a new gear shifter cover plate into your C-Zero or iOn: you may need to make a minor modification to it to ensure it clips into place.
You might need to snip off that centre clip on the top plate.
In the above photo you can see the new shifter plate sitting on top of the original shifter plate. Notice the small clips where my index finger is? You might need to cut/chisel those off in order for them to fit. This is because the clips on the new adapter plate don’t seem to align with the old adapter plate.
It’s no problem, because after a few minutes with a file I’d chopped them off nicely and the new panel was installed!
Wow! A Mitsubishi iMiEV gear shifting panel in a Peugeot iOn!
That looks awesome!
I’ve always been a fan of making tidy modifications to cars. If a modification can’t be done tidily then I don’t want to do it as aesthetics are important when you spend all your driving time looking at your modifications. This means that I’m very satisfied with the results I’ve achieved today.
Crouching iOn hidden iMiEV.
I can’t believe it was that easy.
The average person without much mechanical ability could easy unlock their extra regenerative braking in their Citroen C-Zero or Peugeot iOn within 20 to 30 minutes. It’s honestly so easy that I don’t know why they blocked them off in the first place!
If you’re interested in buying a faceplate yourself, the part number is 2420A081XB and according to this picture which Mitsubishi Slovakia sent me to pinpoint the exact part I need, it’s also known as part number 24935.
The gear shifter plate has two part numbers.
The question remaining now… what do the extra B and C ‘gears’ do?
Well, there’s only one way to find out: click the play button on the video below!
It’s been a few weeks since my last update on living with my electric car as there hasn’t been much to report on and electric cars don’t have much to fix or maintain so things have been quiet. In fact, a little too quiet… until 15 cars from eTourEurope arrived to recharge in Bratislava.
How many EVs can you identify?
eTourEurope is a yearly event which sees a handful of different electric cars from different countries drive almost 4000 km / 2485 miles across Europe to raise awareness of electric vehicles.
I met up with the convoy as they entered the Slovak capital city of Bratislava. It was great to meet so many EV enthusiasts in one place. In fact, the event got me in the mood for a road trip of my own!
I’m going to drive to Ukraine – and back – in my EV!
I decided to make a journey that (as far as I can tell) no one in Slovakia has ever done: driving from the Slovak-Austrian border on the far west to the Slovak-Ukraine border on the far east… and back again.
I mapped out where we’d need to charge.
I’d worked out all the places we’d need to stop to recharge, and because my car is a city runabout, not a Tesla Model S, there would be many, many, many, many, many recharging stops involved. So, let’s get started!
It begins at the Slovak-Austrian border
The journey began at 5:30 AM on the other side of the Slovak border in Austria.
From here we’d be driving all the way across the country to the Ukraine border in a car that was never designed to leave the city!
The morning sun greeted us as we headed to our first charge point.
Our first stop was 49 kilometres / 30 miles outside the city of Trnava.
First top-up in Trnava!
Not too bad so far, but we had a long way to go.
From here we went to Nitra, 46 kilometres / 29 miles away, where we grabbed another 20 minute quick-charge in order to reach the next stop:
Recharging at Motorest Zubor.
The third charging stop was at a place in the middle of nowhere called Motorest Zubor just 33 kilometres / 20 miles away. And yes, that’s a camel in the above photo. And no, I don’t know why.
From this location I forced the quick-charger to go beyond the regular 80% top-up, all the way to 95%. This is because the next stop was 83 kilometres / 51 miles away and last time we attempted that stretch of road we arrived to the city stressed out and on ‘turtle mode’.
What a view. There could be worse things to look at.
Because my car is designed for cities only, it means it’s not as aerodynamic as a Nissan Leaf at higher speeds. Coupled with the cold temperatures and the strong winds, this meant I had to stick to around 80 km/h or 50 mph most of the way – not always easy in a country where driving at high speed is king!
That was close. We almost ran out in Banska Bystrica (again).
We arrived to the quick-charger in the central Slovak city of Banska Bystrica with no bars of electricity remaining – but at least we weren’t on ‘turtle mode’.
We grabbed a bite to eat while the car charged up to 93% for the next leg – a mountainous journey to Donovaly, a skiing resort 1000m / 3280 feet above sea level.
Ain’t no mountain high enough!
Despite the rain turning to snow the higher we climbed, we made it to the top of the mountains with heaps of battery power to spare! I also got abducted by aliens by the looks of the above photo…
Next stop: Ruzomberok.
Topping up in Ruzomberok for the next big leg.
Ruzomberok was down on the other side of the mountains, 55 kilometres / 34 miles away. We topped up there to 95% because the next leg to Poprad was going to be a long one…
What a view!
We made it to Poprad 75 kilometres / 46 miles away with a few bars of battery remaining thanks to economical driving. From here we grabbed a coffee and prepared for the next leg of the journey to Presov.
The enormous Spis Castle.
We lapped up the many miles through eastern Slovakia, admiring the thousands of years of history rolling by, as we traversed the country in a vehicle which wasn’t designed to do it! That added a real pioneering dimension to the journey.
An electric cat among the gas-powered pigeons.
Before long, we’d arrived to Presov, 82 kilometres / 51 miles away from our last stop. We only charged for 18 minutes here as the next charging point was only 31 kilometres / 19 miles away.
This meant we could fly down the highways as fast as we liked to the final charging stop in Slovakia, in the city of Kosice!
95 hilly, windy, cold kilometres to Ukraine. Gulp…
From here things were about to get spicy. Ukraine was 95 kilometres away, we had to cross a series of mountains, the temperature had fallen to around 14 °C (57 °F), the wind was strong and the rain was heavy.
So with a quick prayer to the patron saint of batteries (is there one?) we commenced the longest, riskiest part of the journey – with no more charging infrastructure at our disposal.
The nerves were high at this point.
Driving up and down the mountains seriously took its toll on the car’s battery. I mean let’s be honest: Mitsubishi built the iMiEV to pop around the city streets of Tokyo, not traverse the Slanske vrchy mountains in eastern Slovakia.
The Remaining Range gauge (also known as the guess-o-meter) said that we wouldn’t make it, so I drove more economically than I ever have in the past – even if it meant holding up dozens of cars behind me – something I hate doing.
Almost at the end of the European Union!
With night falling – along with the battery meter – the mountains turned into flat valleys and the border to Ukraine appeared on the horizon!
We had an hour to wait at the Slovak border to Ukraine…
We made it to the Ukraine border! Woohoo!
However, we still had an hour to wait in order to clear Slovak customs, and our hotel was still a few kilometres away in the city of Uzhhorod on the other side of the border.
Another hour at the Ukraine internal border…
We got through to the Ukraine side where we had to wait in more confusing lines for another hour. We found someone that spoke enough English to help us out, and eventually we got through the border inspections…
Welcome to Ужгород, Україна!
WE DID IT!
After 546 kilometres / 339 miles across the Slovak Republic we made it to Uzhhorod in Ukraine!
From here we were exhausted, so we found our hotel (with two bars of battery remaining) and went straight to sleep.
Uzzhorod pedestrian bridge and old town.
The next morning we went exploring the ancient town of Uzzhorod. It’s a fascinating place with plenty of history yet there were absolutely no tourists. We felt like we were exploring an undiscovered secret.
It’s glorious, but what is it? Can anyone identify this car?
Magnificent churches, cobbled streets, great food – and heaps of unusual Soviet-era cars like the one above. Imagine that beast painted deep, glossy black and converted to run on electricity!
We grabbed a few electrons at the hotel.
For lunch we plugged in the car and took it to a restaurant just outside the city centre.
My EV turns heads in Slovakia, but I had never expected as much curious attention as what I received in Ukraine. I saw dozens of people stop and turn their heads and heard many folks saying something like “electrikny” as I drove around town with my window open. Neat!
At the restaurant Деца у нотаря.
We found the restaurant about 8 kilometres / 5 miles out of the city centre and stopped for lunch. We enjoyed traditional Ukrainian cuisine for two, comprising borscht with different breads, coffees, mineral water and apple pancakes all for 122 UAH (around €4.32 / $4.85 USD). The food in Ukraine is filling and tasty yet so incredibly cheap.
Time to head back to Slovakia!
After a fun day of exploring Uzhhorod it was time to head back to the European Union. We started early in the morning again and made our way through the border. This time everything went quickly and smoothly, and within an hour we were back in Slovakia.
One of these vehicles fights for oil, the other fights against it.
On the way back through Slovakia we were able to take our time. The weather was much better and there was no wind, so we made it to each charging point with much more power left over than when we came the other way.
We had time to explore.
The journey back was much faster and more enjoyable, thanks largely to the weather. One of the villages we stopped in was Liptovska Osada. I couldn’t resist grabbing a shot with both the old & the new.
One great idea to maximise range in long-distance EV driving for cars like mine, is to go “truck-surfing”. This means you find a truck and sit along behind it. This method stops you from going too fast and wasting power, and you don’t slow down any cars behind you.
I pressed on for another 500 kilometres / 310 miles, recharging 8 times across the country, and before I knew it I was back in Bratislava. From here it was just a few kilometres from the Austrian border; where the whole journey began!
Back at the border!
Go, me! As far as I can tell, I’m the first person in Slovakia to make this journey.
Interestingly, when my car was brought by the previous owner back in 2011 it was actually the first privately registered electric car in Slovakia. So in a way, it was the perfect vehicle for this semi-pioneering trip.
And as always, the experience was captured in an easy-to-watch video, below:
I hope you enjoyed the ride. The only question remaining… where to next?
To be fair, the above picture isn’t actually winter. It was taken while Veronika and I enjoyed a trip to New Zealand in December 2015 in order to experience Christmas time in the summer once again – the way Christmas should be.
The BMW i3: just like my car – but with an engine
I also had the opportunity to test-drive a brand new BMW i3 with a range-extended petrol engine built in. It was a comfortable if unremarkable electric car, but it sure has some good acceleration. I wouldn’t mind one if they were more realistically priced and if they came with a bigger battery instead of an old-fashioned internal combustion engine installed. I guess BMW aren’t ready to follow Tesla just yet.
Before long, it was time to leave the warmth and sunshine and head back to Slovakia, which meant learning to drive my electric car in winter.
My electric car recharging in the snow.
The cold winter weather meant that I had to effectively learn the characteristics of my car all over again. There wasn’t that much of a difference to be honest, but I’d be lying if I said there was no difference at all. I learned that the car gave me less range in the colder temperatures, though not a huge reduction.
I quickly learned however that using the heater takes a massive chunk out of the range. I mean that little electric heater uses heaps of electricity. So much so, that I think next winter I’ll copy the brilliant idea from Ben Nelson, and install a tiny fuel-sipping “parking heater”. He did a really tidy, professional install of an tap-in heating system which costs almost nothing to run yet heats the cabin of the car brilliantly while using no more electricity than just running the fan. Cool huh?
Another idea to create more space under the tiny hood in the Peugeot iOn / Mitsubishi iMiEV / Citroen C-Zero in order to install a parking heater system is to move the big lead-acid “starter” battery to a different location. And, while you’re at it, get rid of it and put a lightweight lithium battery in it’s place, as Jarkko Santala did here! He also installed a fuel heater in his electric car, along with heaps of other modifications. Both the aforementioned blogs are great reading with lots of pictures. If you like tinkering, then grap a cuppa and check them out!
Get the cameras ready! It’s time to make a video!
There are endless blogs and research info on the internet about winter affecting electric cars, but as we all know, the best way to learn is through hands-on experience. So I did a few warm weather versus cold weather comparisons which I included in the video at the bottom of this page.
I’ve wanted one of these for YEARS!
As you can see in the above picture, I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a plug-in hybrid (secret code for an electric-assist bicycle) which is something I wanted for years. Thank you, Christmas bonus!
A brand new e-bike!
The only problem was that it was the middle of winter so I couldn’t exactly take it for a spin.
Well, thanks to a planet full of gas cars and coal power stations I only had to wait a couple of days for winter to temporarily end as a freak mid-winter heatwave arrived.
Thankfully, our ruined climate meant I could take it for a mid-winter ride!
This meant I was able to go for a nice long ride in a sunny 11°C (52°F) when it should have been -11°C (12°F). Very, very strange indeed.
On one hand I loved being able to ride my bike in the middle of the Slovak winter, but on the other it made me sad because we all know this shouldn’t be happening. We’re really pulling our delicate climate apart.
On a more positive note, I noticed my electric bike’s battery comes with a USB socket. This means I can charge my phone on the go. Kinda cool.
My bike’s battery has a USB port!
Overall it’s been a real adventure this winter, learning the eccentricities of my little city electric car, but I’ve had no unpleasant surprises because the range difference wasn’t staggering (as long as you don’t touch the heater).
Another thing I discovered about my electric car was the button that turned off the stability and traction control. This meant that when the snow began falling, I was able to use this button to devolve into a fully-grown manchild, sliding my electric car around an empty street!
Clean fun: electric car doughnuts are smarter doughnuts.
I experienced and learned a lot more than what I’ve just explained in text however, so to see the rest, including cold weather comparisons, my brief TV appearance, and even a cameo by Hitler wearing ridiculous socks, click on the video below!
The OBD II link connector arrived, but will it work?
Winter has arrived to Slovakia, bringing rain, sleet, snow and short days. However something else arrived which I was really looking forward to: my new high-speed, bluetooth OBDII adapter!
As you’ll remember, I had a bit of bad luck with my last two connectors, as I didn’t know that they needed to be high speed devices. I wrongly assumed they were all pretty similar, but that’s not the case. To read all the data coming from my car you really need a powerful adapter. So I plugged this new toy into the OBDII plug under the dash, turned on the caniOn application for smartphones (thoroughly recommended!) and waited for that sweet, sweet data.
Woohoo! Look at that sweet, sweet data!
I’ve gotta say, this application is just awesome and you should download it here. It’s completely free, but such a well-designed piece of software that I tried to find some way to donate to them, but they had no donate button on their website. So instead, while typing this I opened another browser tab and …there… I just donated €10 in their honour to Sloboda Zvierat, an animal shelter here in Bratislava which cares for stray or neglected cats and dogs.
Thank you, caniOn creators!
So, caniOn creators: both I and many Slovak kittens & puppies say thank you! Good karma is coming your way.
As for the data, it’s impressive. On my phone or tablet I can see everything from regenerative braking efficiency to accelerator history to heater power consumption to motor speed – you name it. This meant I was able to accurately work out that my car costs 1.6 cents per kilometre, when driving at 50 km/h (31 mph). No gas or diesel car can get even close to that!
*(50 km/h = 0.05 kWh; our electricity costs €0.08 per kWh).
At 130 km/h (81 mph) the car was eating a lot more power.
At expressway speed however it was a different story. In Slovakia, the expressway speed limit is 130 km/h (81 mph) and as you can see in the above image, driving at this speed used a lot more power because my little city car just isn’t designed for it. It worked out at 3.1 cents per kilometre, which is even more than a Tesla Model S uses at similar speeds, according to some online discussions I saw.
Although, while uneconomical in electric car terms, when compared to even the most high-tech diesels, such as a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta ‘Clean Diesel’ it still works out half the price to drive electric. And as the world recently discovered, even at it’s most uneconomical, my car’s still cleaner and cheaper than Volkswagen’s cleanest, most efficient diesel. That’s pretty cool.
Some quick & dirty math:
2015 VW Jetta TDI: 46 MPG / 5.1 l/100km at 100 km/h; current diesel price: €1,104 / litre = €0.056 per kilometre in the Diesel.
2011 Peugeot iOn: 0.25 kWh per km @ 130 km/h; current electricity price €0.08 per kWh = €0.03 per kilometre in my electric car.
They’re all the same: the Peugeot iOn, the Citroen C-Zero, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
With so much to learn about my car, I’ll be playing with the caniOn app a lot, especially as winter approaches! If you have a Mitusbishi iMiEV, Citreon C-Zero, or Peugeot iOn (they’re all the same car) then I strongly recommend getting an OBDII adapter and downloading the app. It’s brilliant!
On another note, the time has arrived for me to take my car for its first vehicle inspection. In Slovakia, new cars don’t need vehicle inspections until they are four years old. And seeing that my car is about to turn four, it was time to go for a safety test. But… being the first privately registered electric car in the country (back in November 2011), it meant there was a big chance the inspectors had never seen an electric car before.
This got me worried. Being a formerly Communist country, Slovakia still has a lot of bureaucracy and if the inspection forms say “test the vehicle emissions” then they must test the emissions, exhaust pipe or not.
An exhaust pipe on an electric car: battling bureaucracy with absurdity.
So, I wondered how hard it would be to install a temporary exhaust pipe on the car… just in case. Then, I decided to hook it up to a kettle out of curiosity to generate “emissions”. Then, to make it really authentic, I played the sound of an internal combustion engine on the car stereo.
Then I realised I was being ridiculous, so I took the junk off the car and took it for its first official safety and emissions inspection.
Time for the big inspection: I’m scared.
It turns out I was right: this was the first electric car they’d ever tested. It meant we held up the line while phone calls were made and vehicle inspection officers discussed how to test its emissions. In the end, logic prevailed and the car skipped the part where exhaust emissions were checked. Whew.
The rest of the test was a piece of cake, checking brakes and suspension parts for wear or rust, and before I knew it the whole thing was over. Then, just as I was in a great mood from passing the test, I noticed something pretty horrible:
Ouch. That hurts.
That massive, cut-to-the-metal scratch on the left, rear pillar.
It upset me, because I try to look after the car, drive safely and courteously, and park carefully – but nothing can protect you from an army of clumsy people out there that don’t care about your possessions. Sigh…
So we called the insurance company and took the car to get fixed. This meant I had to take the bus for a week, and get out of pocket €150 for the excess to get my car back like new again. Such is life, I guess.
Now I should say that buses in Bratislava are pretty good, compared to many countries. The buses here are modern, often with TVs and free WiFi – but if you’re an electric car owner, you’ll know that once you’ve gone electric, nothing is ever as good as your car. Then there’s the cost: my car uses 19 cents of electricity to drive to work, yet the bus ticket costs 90 cents! You can’t beat that!
So you can imagine my joy when it was time to pick up my car again.
Good as new!
It’s so good to be driving on electrons once again, but now comes the tough part for any electric car: winter. There’ll be snow, ice, salted roads, and a lot of heater use. Stay tuned to see how my little car survives.
In the meantime, you can see all the craziness I just mentioned (and much more) by watching the latest Kiwi EV video below:
P.S. You can download the 100% electric sticker on a transparent background by clicking here.
Please drive safely, and park well away from metal fences!
I decided to escape the city to spend a night nice in Banská Bystrica, a city in central Slovakia, 227 kilometres (141 miles) away from Bratislava.
I wish I’d just taken “green” all the way!
I decided to take the back roads to get to our first charging point in a city called Nitra because I was afraid taking the highway would drain the battery too much.
In retrospect it was a terrible decision because, while we got to see some nice villages, the roads were shockingly bad and the normally 70 minute journey took two and a half hours! It would have been faster to take the highway, even with a mid-journey top-up in another town called Trnava. Oh well, lesson learned.
We made it to Nitra at long, long last.
When we arrived to top up we plugged in and found that our access code didn’t work! Argh! Fortunately it was simple to fix. One phone call to the 24-hour Greenway charging network operator and we started charging within 1 minute. Pay attention charging operators: that is how you do it!
Next stop was only 35 km away at a place called Motorest Zubor in… well, the middle of nowhere.
Recharging the car before the stress arrives.
The quick charger at Motorest Zubor scared me a little. When we plugged in and entered our code it gave us an error. I panicked, tried again, and fortunately it worked.
Just like in Nitra, the charger brought the car up to 82% in 20 minutes and we carried on our way to Banská Bystrica. This next part of the journey would be the most stressful and I wanted to charge to at least 90%, but it didn’t show me how, so I assumed 82% was as high as it would go. Big mistake…
With many miles to go we entered “Turtle mode”!
Because we were driving for an hour at high speed, we drained the battery and barely made it to Banská Bystrica with the last 10 kilometres on “Turtle mode”. This meant the car only gave us the absolute minimum in power, which also meant the car was crawling up the hill to the fast charger at walking pace. I have never been so stressed out!
That’s either 4% full or 96% empty.
I’ve never seen my car battery go so low before. Combined with a six hour journey it was an experience I was keen to forget. Fortunately, from here we could relax and enjoy a night in Banská Bystrica, a beautiful medieval town in the middle of Slovakia.
We made it to Banská Bystrica!
We walked all over this beautiful town, took in the many sights, and had a lovely dinner, all before tucking ourselves in for a long sleep.
We needed our energy because tomorrow we would be doing it all over again…
D’oh! There’s a hidden option to charge to 100% full!
I awoke to good news! When charging in the morning I discovered an extra menu in the quick charger allows you to charge all the way to 100 percent full! This is brilliant news!
Unfortunately in my case it refused to go past 94% but hey, that’s better than yesterday’s 82% so I’ll take it!
Hypermiling the electric car
Understandably we were pretty nervous about making the same long journey back to the Motorest Zubor charger, so we drove slowly and carefully at around 85 km/h (53 mph).
We were passed by every vehicle on the highway (the most humiliating was a diesel Smart car) but after an hour we finally made it to the quick charger with THREE bars of battery remaining! No turtle mode!
It goes to show that charging an extra 12% and driving like a grandmother can make all the difference. Good to know for next time.
Grabbing a coffee and a few electrons in Trnava.
After stopping in Nitra, we decided to go via the highway all the way, making a quick stop at Trnava before heading home to Bratislava. It was a very good decision as it saved us about an hour.
We learned a lot about the car. The 227 km (141 mile) journey back from Banská Bystrica was much more streamlined and took 4 hours. This works out about one hour longer than using a regular gas car, if you add in a stop for lunch. Not bad for a low-range city electric car, huh?
As always, here’s a video of the whole thing with a lot of cool stuff thrown in:
Thanks for watching and I hope you’re enjoying my EV journey!
The car needed it’s 40,000 kilometre service, so I took it into the Peugeot dealer and they really serviced it thoroughly. They changed almost everything you can change on an electric car:
Plastic scuff-guard (free as part of a factory recall).
Yep, they replaced three whole things… All three of them.
The old battery cover was replaced for free as part of a factory recall.
Normally, when I take a gas car to be serviced I end up with three pages of replaced parts and a promise to donate my first born child to pay for the extreme cost, so this was a really pleasant surprise. Plus, now I have a shiny, new battery skid-guard under the car and it cost me nothing:
The new battery cover for the electric car was completely free.
After the service, I decided to take the car on it’s longest ever trip: a drive from Bratislava (where I live) to beautiful Vienna, in Austria.
Grüß Gott! The Kiwi EV is in Vienna!
At 90 kilometres (56 miles) it’s actually not that far away, but it’s far enough that I must rely on the quick charging system to get me home. No big deal, as I have a VIBRATe (Vienna-Bratislava electro-mobility) access card for a fast-charger in Vienna.
The VIBRATe charger outside Burger King in Vienna.
Unfortunately, I soon discovered that my VIBRATe card is not valid for the charger outside Burger King in Vienna. Argh! I need this charger to get home! I panicked and called the support desk and they tried to help, but told me that it’s not yet compatible with the VIBRATe network and they can’t get access to unlock it! What do I do?!
Despite this major system flaw, the helpdesk was as helpful as they could be and they directed me across town to an underground parking lot which had a Level 2 (3.7 kW) charger. This meant I was in for about 3 hours of waiting.
I was directed to this slow charger in an (expensive) underground parking lot.
It was also the first time I’ve been “ICEd”, which is when an Internal Combustion Engine car parks in front of an electric car charging point which they cannot possibly use.
So, I wandered around the streets of Vienna for 3 hours, charged up, then made the long, perilous journey home – and I almost didn’t make it. The best way to really experience the drama of this day is to watch this video below.
I got so angry with the incompetence of electric car fast-charging companies that I even put on a suit to make my point!
Cruising through Austria, listening to… nothing because the stereo is locked.
The stereo that came with the electric car was too boring for my tastes and I planned on replacing it with a cooler system. This plan turned into reality when I removed the stereo plug one evening to check the cable. When I reconnected the plug, the stereo asked for a code which I didn’t have. After trying a handful of combinations, the system locked up and it became useless. So I replaced it with this:
Electric Car Trek: The Next Generation
I bought this new Nanox NX-1410G fold-out car stereo which I got from ebay. It was a piece of cake to install and it looks awesome!
But the sound system was still lacking in the car. The door speakers and dash-mounted tweeters just didn’t cut the mustard. It needed a subwoofer to give it more depth. Fortunately, I already have one:
Ah. It’s a bit of a snug fit…
Hmm. Either the boot in the electric car is very small, or my subwoofer is very big. Or both. I needed a smaller solution, and it came in the form of a Pioneer TS-WX210A compact subwoofer.
The compact Pioneer TS-WX210A subwoofer fits in nicely.
The new touchscreen stereo is full of gadgets (including GPS, video input/output, and TV capability) and the new subwoofer makes a world of difference in sound warmth and quality. I mean, just because the car is quiet doesn’t mean it can’t be loud occasionally!
I designed these myself!
After driving the car around for a month, I realised that many people don’t know it’s electric, so I decided to put a cool electric car sticker on the back window. I couldn’t find any I liked on the internet, so I designed my own and had a local shop print them for me on cut-out adhesive vinyl.
I really love the little plug on the end.
I peeled off the paper and adhered the sticker to the window. The result? I actually look forward to red lights now, because it means I can watch the reactions of the people in the car behind me as they point and look for an exhaust pipe that doesn’t exist! A shallow game, I know, but heaps of fun!
I’ve already done around 1500 kilometres (932 miles) since owning the car which means I’ve had the chance to pop in and use one of the VIBRATe (stands for Vienna-Bratislava electric) EV quick chargers.
VIBRATe charging station in Bratislava (behind the Slovnaft gas station)
Did I mention the quick charger was really quite quick?
Look at how much current is flowing:
That sure puts the quick in quick charging.
354 volts at 122 amps. That equals 43.1 kilowatts of power pouring into the battery. At this rate it reaches half-full in about 8 minutes!
Then one evening, after giving the car a wash, I decided the time had come. I realised I had to do it…
I couldn’t help it. I did the predictable “electric car in front of wind turbines” photo.
I’m not proud of this, but I took the electric car across the border to Austria and I parked in front of some wind turbines and took a photo.
Yes, it’s predictable, but gosh it looks great.
I know, I know, it’s the most predictable photo any electric car driver can do (aside from the awesome “parked at a gas station looking confused” photo) but I had to get it off my list.
We also decided to take the car for another long drive to a lake in Austria for a swim. It was great! We drove there and back (130 km / 80 miles) on one charge – although we did stop for a 5 minute top up in a small village which had free public charging:
Veronika posing at the free charging station.
We didn’t actually need to charge, and 5 minutes with the regular charger made no real difference to the range, but come on! It was free!
For those who like to see and hear rather than just look at photos, I made a short video for you. I hope you enjoy it!
Driving over the Danube River with electricity – Bratislava, Slovakia
It’s been 10 days since I brought my Peugeot iOn electric car home and this has given me enough time to learn about the technology behind the car, as well its limitations.
Triplets: the Peugeot iOn, the Citroen C-Zero, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
Interestingly, my Peugeot iOn is actually identical to the Citroen C-Zero, which are both actually Mitsubishi i-MiEVs with different badges.
All three cars are all made by Mitsubishi which is actually a good thing, because French car makers aren’t known for their reliability.
When it comes to circuits, motors, and drivetrains I’d rather leave it to the Japanese!
The 330 volt i-MiEV battery pack
The car has a 330 volt lithium-ion battery pack which is made up of 88 individual prismatic (rectangular) cells. This pack weighs around 150 kg (330 lbs) and has a capacity of 16 kWh.
The size of a watermelon: my electric car’s motor
The electric car’s motor is about the size of a watermelon and propels the car from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 15 seconds. The car has a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph) and it has no problem getting up to that speed quite quickly, but once you hit it it won’t go any faster as it has an electronic limiter.
The motor in the car is attached to one of these:
The car’s single speed “gearbox”
The Peugeot iOn has a single-speed reduction gearbox, which puts the power to the wheels at a more efficient speed than connecting the wheels straight to the motor shaft. This box has a final gear ratio of 7.065:1, and together with the electric motor, these two weigh 64.8 kg (143 lbs).
Grabbing a few quick electrons in Bratislava.
But what’s it like to actually own an electric car in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia? Actually, it’s pretty good (but I’m really, really biased!).
There are a growing number of recharging points across the city. Some shopping malls have free “Type 1” (also known as “J1772”) charging sockets, and there are about 4 rapid chargers across town too, but you typically need a membership card to operate them.
This is actually one of my big complaints about the electric vehicle movement at this moment. If you want to more people to switch to electric, then using a recharging point must be as seamless as filling up a gas car.
I hate gas stations but they sure know what they’re doing.
What I mean is this: you can drive into any gas station in any country and you know you can fill up without problems, pay, and continue your journey.
You cannot do that in an electric car and it really annoys me. Instead, you have to have a wallet filled with charging station membership cards, accounts, and pre-paid plans – and then be hopeful that the electric car charging point isn’t out of order (which people tell me happens quite often).
What I should be able to do is to stop at any quick charging point, plug in my car and pay with my credit card number, or pay via SMS, or even make a phone call to your office to bill me later. Either way, give me one of these options!
Power companies & charging station companies, I’m more than willing to pay a premium price for this convenience, so for God’s sake, LET ME BUY YOUR PRODUCT!
Compact, fully optioned, and costs less than taking the bus!
The car has air conditioning, a heated driver’s seat, electric windows & mirrors, reversing sensors, and front and side airbags. And despite its compact size, this car scores 4 out of 5 stars in the Euro NCAP safety test.
“Ouuuuccccch” as E.T. would say.
Interestingly, the car has two charging ports. The port on the right is a “Type 1” socket which plugs into a regular wall outlet, via the 16 amp portable charger. The wall outlets in Europe are around 230 volts and 16 amps, which means on any household socket the car sucks 3.7 kW.
This means it takes around 4 to 5 hours from empty to refill which isn’t bad at all. It also means a complete recharge from empty to full costs just €1.20 ($1.36 USD). That’s cheaper than the bus. In fact, it’s almost cheaper than walking!
The charger provides 3.7 kilowatts straight out of the wall outlet!
The port on the left side of the car however is a CHAdeMO socket which pours DC power directly into the battery pack at high amperage. Using this plug can refill the car from flat to 80% full in around 25 to 30 minutes!
The car is also wonderfully fun to drive, and I haven’t felt restricted in any way. In fact, yesterday we took a drive to a lake in Austria – and back again – on a single charge.
In Austria: the Kiwi EV has gone international!
The journey was 107 kilometres in total (66 miles) and we pushed this little city car hard, driving against a strong headwind and at highways speeds.
This really put the car out of its comfort zone: it was designed to commute at city speeds from home to the office; not keep up with BMWs and Audis at “Austrian speeds”!
Almost home: only one battery bar left but I wasn’t worried at all.
Despite this, we made the journey to the lake and back to Slovakia with one bar of battery remaining, and even then I wasn’t worried at all. This is because there’s a 50 kW quick charger right near the border, so I could easily grab enough power to get home in only 3 or 4 minutes of recharging!
To see all this (and our long-distance drive) in a fun & easily digestible video, click the play button below:
Now, for the next instalment I need to do something about the car’s pathetic sound system. I want more bass and a big colour display. I mean, just because the car is electric, doesn’t mean it can’t be loud!
After years of wanting another electric car, and almost two years of saving every cent, I just bought an electric car!
I really did it! It’s 100% electric and it’s 100% mine!
I knew the minute I saw it. Something just “clicked”. I had to buy it.
I’m truly gob-smacked (and very lucky) to have bought this awesome little electric car. As you can see above, the car was originally advertised for €10,000 – which is a bargain price – but the original owner (let’s call him Mr Awesome) let me have it for €7000!
Coincidently, that was exactly how much I had saved in a year and a half. It really was destiny. I was meant to have it.
But why did he sell it to me for so little? He could have easily got the €10,000 asking price as electric cars are very rare in Slovakia (at the last count there are only around 60 EVs in the whole country with a population of 5 million!).
These custom plates are awesome but they’re actually purely decorative and not legal.
Well, the reason was simple, but sad. Mr Awesome bought the car for his wife in 2011 and – get this – it’s the first electric car ever registered in Slovakia to a private citizen. His wife put many thousands of kilometres on the car (and a few scratches) but sadly she passed away in late 2014 after battling an illness.
The previous owner kept the car until June 2015, but it just sat in his garage, so he decided to sell it. As I was checking the prices and availability of electric cars every day, I saw it pretty quickly. My heart skipped a beat.
I realised if I sold my gas car I could achieve the €10,000 asking price. My wife called Mr Awesome and arranged to go and see the car as soon as possible. Then, upon meeting him in person, he knew me! He’d seen some of my electric car obsessed tweets and comments around the internet and knew just how passionate I am about electric vehicles.
Long story short, he offered it to me for €7,000 as that’s what car dealers had offered him and he wanted to move on with his life. I grabbed his hand and shook it enthusiastically, and barely a day later we went to the Dopravný inšpektorát (transport office) to change the ownership into my name!
The Dopravný inšpektorát is one of the least fun places to visit in the whole of Slovakia.
A visit to the depressing and bureaucratic transport office is not much fun (is it in any country?) but it had to be done. After a short wait, we filled out the paperwork, a police officer checked everything, and I drove away in my electric vehicle!
Click below to watch the event unfold on video!
It was a real miracle. There’s no other word for it. I’m absolutely thrilled and I’ve already driven 200 kilometres in city driving in just one weekend!