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The electric age has begun in Malaysia with Mitsubishi officially launching the i-MiEV today, the first all-electric vehicle to be sold here. Going full electric has been a long process for Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia, who first registered the EV way back in 2011. An Eco-Tourism Pilot Demonstration Program in Langkawi followed suit in 2012, before the official launch teasers started earlier this week.

The i-MiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle) goes on sale to the Malaysian public for a hefty RM136,118.50 without insurance (RM139,888 OTR), despite its fully tax exempt status. There’s always a price to pay to be a pioneer at something big and future-proof, and in the case of electric vehicles, this is it.

At least there’s plenty to be saved with the i-MiEV’s minimal running costs. There will be no fuel bill for starters, and charging up the car from empty to full capacity only costs around RM3.50 in electricity bill, which will then give you a maximum range of 150 km (measured in the NEDC cycle).

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As you are not likely to fully deplete the battery everyday, your daily charging cost would be considerably cheaper still. Plus, there are always the two public EV charging stations in KLCC and Lot 10 where you can park and charge your vehicle for free.

With no engine and hence no lubricants, service maintenance is cheaper too. Service interval is every 20,000 km, where it would be run through standard diagnostic checks. The only things that need replacing are the air-con filter and brake fluid. Not that it matters for the first five years anyway, as the i-MiEV comes with a watertight five year warranty and free service (up to 100,000 km).

Annual road tax is RM10, the lowest permissible for a car. Insurance too is measured based on a 660 cc vehicle, the cheapest class in the current system.

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Alas, though significant, there’s only so much you can save from the lower running cost as even with everything considered, it’s nowhere near enough to offset the car’s price in the first place. So let’s not kid ourselves here: this car is all about saving the environment, not money.

It uses an all-electric motor for forward propulsion, with a maximum output of 49 kW (equivalent to 67 hp) and 196 Nm of torque driving the rear wheels. It operates silently with no vibrations, offering a unique driving environment that’s unlike traditional vehicles with internal combustion engines.

All that torque is available from zero rpm, so it’s a punchy performer (top speed is 130 km/h). A low-centre of gravity promises agile handling characteristics and, coupled with a tight turning radius of 4.5 m, should prove to be a real hoot to drive around town.

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The 330V battery can be charged from a standard home power socket, and takes a full eight hours to charge fully, or less with some charge left. No fuel is used, just battery charge. It emits no emissions either. In reducing our carbon footprint and dependence to fossil fuels, this car is a huge step forward.

In case you’re wondering, the battery is covered by the five-year warranty, and is said to retain at least 80% of its full capacity after that period. After 10 years of use, the figure drops to 70%.

At just 3,475 mm long and 1,475 mm wide, the i-MiEV is a tiny little car. It’s got a long 2,550 mm wheelbase though, so interior space is not an issue. Lack of creature comfort isn’t either, with a 2-DIN touchscreen multimedia system with GPS, automatic climate control, auto headlights, electric power steering and leather steering wheel and shifter as standard.

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As small as it is, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV packs Active Stability Control (ASC), six airbags and Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) rigid body construction for uncompromised safety. The battery too is encased in a waterproof package that is protected against impact damage.

Also unveiled is Mitsubishi’s first EV Centre, SAG Star along Jalan Chan Sow Lin. It’s got a free charging station for all EV users, and Mitsubishi said a further five EV Centres will be built within the financial year – four in the peninsular, one in East Malaysia.

The i-MiEV is definitely not for everyone. It’s a testament to the grand vision of a few, designed for the discerning few who value energy sustainability more than others.