Subaru Joins Electric Car Race with R1e
Fuji Heavy Industries (20% owned by GM), the company behind the Subaru brand, announced on 19 August plans to bring a fully electric version of the mini R1 car to the market. Dubbed the R1e when introduced as a concept car in 2003, the all-electric vehicle could be available to consumers in Japan as early as 2009. A grass-roots movement is already afoot by some Americans to try to encourage Subaru to find a niche for the teeny car on the American expressways, which may be the only hope for the 3.3 m (11-foot) long design of Andreas Zapatinas to hit the pavement in the home of the Hummer. Introduction of the R1 to the already mini-friendly European market is also not yet decided. Car-watchers with sharp eyes in Japan may see the R1e on public roads already this year as testing continues.
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The car will use a Lithium-ion battery, which can take the current prototype up to 120 km (75 miles) before the next charge. Engineers hope to extend this to 200 km (124 miles) before the launch. The high performance battery was developed in cooperation with NEC and is reported to be capable of re-charging to 90% capacity in only five minutes. The battery lifespan is greater than 150,000 km.
Additionally, although the rumors of cooperation with Toyota on hybrid drive technology appear not to have materialized, Fuji will proceed with its development, targeting 2007 to bring a hybrid version of the mini-car to the market to augment the 4.17 L/100km (56.4 mpg) gasoline-powered version already sold in Japan.