Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – New York’s State Power Authority this summer will begin testing two Subaru R1e electric minicars.

The vehicle, which initially bowed at the 2003 Tokyo auto show, is an electrified version of the 0.66L R1 minicar sold in Japan.

The auto maker also showed a G4e battery-powered hatchback concept at the auto show, which it claims can run 125 miles (201 km) on a single charge.

“Subaru’s goal is to become the leading brand in the electric-vehicle market,” says Ikuo Mori, president of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru vehicles.

The R1e was developed in a joint venture with Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc., and tests of the EV already are under way in Tokyo and London.

“This new partnership with the New York Power Authority is further demonstration of Subaru’s ongoing efforts in applying electric-car technology in real-world situations,” says Tim Mahoney, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Subaru of America Inc.

“EVs are a viable response to our need to improve fuel economy and cut carbon (dioxide) output,” Mahoney says. “The R1e is designed for city dwellers looking for an environmentally friendly and fun-to-drive alternative to gas-powered cars.”

The R1e’s lithium-ion batteries, supplied by NEC Corp., can be recharged to 80% of capacity in 15 minutes, while a full charge takes eight hours when connected to standard household current. Subaru claims a full charge will cost about $2.

Subaru says the battery life is good for 10 years or 100,000 miles (160,930 km).

The Rle’s top speed is 65 mph (105 km/h). The mini urban commuter, which has a permanent magnet synchronized motor producing 40 kW (54 hp), has a range of up to about 50 miles (80 km).

There presently are 40 Subaru Rle EVs in use in Japan, and Fuji Heavy says an additional 100 cars will be added to a test program there next year.

The Li-ion batteries can be used in hybrid-electric vehicles and fuel-cell EVs, as well, the auto maker says, noting the battery packs are flat, rather than cylindrical, and can fit in a space only 4 ins. (10 cm) high.