Electric car batteries don't deal well with heat. Like the Lithium-ion battery in your laptop, if the battery in your EV overheats, it can shorten its lifespan or even cause it to simply stop working. While there haven't been as many examples of spontaneous combustion in Li-ion batteries in electric cars as there have been in laptops, the EV industry is looking for ways to improve battery performance under all kinds conditions and real world environments, including under extreme heat, where batteries are so heavily taxed by vehicle air conditioners. And there may be no better place test EV performance under hot, urban environments than in the extreme heat of Abu Dhabi, where summertime temperatures can reach 120 degrees, and there just happens to be a graduate research institute and technology research platform built for precisely this kind of testing.
Launched in late January, Masdar, the multi-faceted clean energy company backed by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is conducting a pilot project with Mitsubishi to test a fleet of 10 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs in Masdar City, the planned sustainable city and cleantech hub. During the pilot, Masdar will test and validate the performance of EVs and various charging solutions in the context of the region's severe climate conditions. The pilot will also test the feasibility of integrating EV technology as a point-to-point solution into the city’s zero-carbon transportation network, a network that includes planned light rail and passenger trains, as well as Personal Rapid Transit, the automated, single-cabin electric vehicles already operational in the Masdar City.
"This project will provide regional reference to the car-manufacturers, battery and other technology providers," said Buthaina Al Mazrui, Project Manager in Strategic Partnerships at Masdar.
As an open technology platform where testing of clean technologies from renewables to advanced energy management systems has already begun, Masdar City has plans to work with several electric car manufacturers and related technology and hardware providers to find new ways to integrate sustainable transportation systems. In the case of the EV test platform, not only is the Mitsubishi i-MiEV the first car to partner with Masdar, Mitsubishi's intelligent IT infrastructure system will act as the pilot's platform from which the vehicles will be managed.
"Masdar City provides a real-life setting for residents to use our new vehicle technology, and to begin to rely on electric-powered forms of transportation - as the future will depend on it," said Mr. Kinya Watanabe, of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' Abu Dhabi office.
The i-MiEV has a range of about 85 miles and is being billed as the first mass-produced, 100% electric vehicle on the market. Masdar is testing ten i-MiEVs over the first three months of the one-year pilot with Mitsubishi.
Disclosure: My recent trip to Abu Dhabi was paid for by Masdar.