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A Different Kind of Microbus From Mia Electric

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On: Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 12:05PM | By: Chris Weiss


A Different Kind of Microbus From Mia Electric

While the world waits for an official Microbus decision from Volkswagen, a new player has swept in and stolen some of its thunder. In VW terms, "microbus" was but a nickname for Type 2 (T1 and T2). It wasn't an official model name. Over at Mia Electric, on the other hand, "Microbus" is an official model name.

Not only did France-based Mia Electric borrow VW's name, it borrowed some of its talent. The all-electric Microbus was designed by Murat Günak, former VW head of design. The design reinvents a quirky van for modern times by making it smaller, lighter and far more efficient than ever. According to the company, the standard Microbus weighs just 1,650 lbs. and the longest version adds about 20 lbs.

The Microbus is offered in three varieties: the standard, small-wheelbase version, a longer L model and the box van. While each is a different size, they all feature the same funky shape.

Each model is powered by a rear-mounted 18 kW electric motor fed by a 12 kWh battery pack. The vehicles promise up to 80 miles of range per charge and 68 mph of speed. They were designed with European cities in mind and, as such, they'll be unable to take on the classic VW Microbus's role of road tripping and camping.

The short-wheelbase model has three seats and the L has four. The box van comes with cargo space in place of a rear bench, though I have trouble imagining a lot of people using a tiny electric as a work hauler. The driver seat is planted directly in the center of the car in models, creating 1 +2 and 1 + 3 configurations.

The Mia will make its U.K. debut at the EcoVelocity motor show next month.

Head of U.K. sales Richard Deslandes said in a statement: "The mia has been designed with cities like London firmly in mind and we consider the UK as a priority market for us (alongside France and Germany). We've been overwhelmed by the response we've received since we launched in Geneva and now have 3000 confirmed orders."

Mia began production in June and plans to build 4,000 cars this year with plans to get it rolling to 14,000 by the end of next year. The models will go on sale in the U.K. during the first quarter of next year for a price of £22,000 ($36,000), after government incentives. Its urban-centric slant and rather steep price seem to make it an unlikely candidate for U.S. availability.

PRESS RELEASE

MIA ELECTRIC TO MAKE UK DEBUT AT ECOVELOCITY 2011

London, August 23, 2011 - A new electric vehicle brand, mia electric, is set to hit UK shores next month when it showcases three variants of its innovative Microbus at this year's EcoVelocity motor show (8th - 11th September).

Having been one of the highlights at last year's Geneva Motor Show, this will be the first time these cars have been seen in the UK and the first opportunity for the general public to get behind the wheel and experience mia's zero-emission urban mobility for themselves.

Head of UK sales at mia, Richard Deslandes, said "We're delighted to be debuting our cars in the UK. To be launching our innovative approach to 100% electric zero-emission mobility in the shadow of the iconic chimney stacks of Battersea Power Station, in their day one of the largest producers of CO2 in the capital, seems very fitting.

"The mia has been designed with cities like London firmly in mind and we consider the UK as a priority market for us (alongside France and Germany). We've been overwhelmed by the response we've received since we launched in Geneva and now have 3000 confirmed orders. Production started in June and we will be producing 4000 vehicles this year to meet this initial demand. We hope to ramp up production at our factory in Cerizay, France, to a total capacity of about 14,000 by the end of 2012."

Designed with UK cities in mind

The cars, which go on sale in the UK in the first quarter of 2012, were designed by the former head of design at Volkswagen, Murat Günak, and come in three configurations - the standard short wheelbase model and two extended models, the mia L and the mia box van.

Thanks to its light-weight design concept, the standard model weighs only 750kg (extended models weighs 759kg) giving it extremely economical power consumption and low running costs (approx £1.30 per 100 kms).

All three vehicles are powered by an 18kW electric motor at the rear of the car that gives a top speed of 68 mph (110km/h). A 120 to 130km range is available from the 12 kWh battery pack that comes as standard and the lithium iron phosphate batteries can be fully charged in five hours. This technically sound battery system is exceptionally safe and helps alleviate range anxiety by allowing "no memory effect" charging. This means the battery can be charged for short top-up periods with absolutely no adverse effect to the life of the battery. (e.g. a ten minute charge will give an extra 6km of range).

The standard short wheelbase mia has three seats in total, while the extended mia L has four. Instead of three back seats, as in the mia L, the mia box van features a cargo capacity of 1,500 litres.

The most conspicuous feature of all three variants of the mia is the central driving position which allows the driver to get in and out of the car on both sides. This seat arrangement provides the driver with a perfect view of the city traffic and the passengers at the back with plenty of legroom. It also gives the cabin a unique office-style layout that features a display with space to mount a tablet computer and iPod.

When discussing the philosophy behind the car, Murat Günak, explains "As a father of four I wanted to pursue a new, sustainable path towards environmentally-friendly mobility of the future. We started with a blank piece of paper and asked ourselves the same question over and over again: What does a customer really want to be mobile in the city? Our conclusion was a compact-yet-spacious microbus that's well organized and single-mindedly focused on urban transportation."

David Wilkie, the former design director at Italian styling house Bertone and now design partner at mia, said "Working on the mia project was like reinventing the car itself. It hasn't been designed to look swoopy and fast, it's designed to be practical and likeable. A lot of cars are derivatives of mainstream cars but this is all new and perfect for big cities. It will undoubtedly become harder, and maybe even illegal, to drive petrol cars in downtown urban areas, so electric city cars like the mia have enormous potential."

The purchase price of the cars at £22,000 (after the Government's £5,000 incentive subsidy) and all variants will be exempt from the congestion charge in London. The car and batteries come with three year warranties, with the option to purchase up to five years.


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