Dismissing the Peugeot iOn as merely part of a badging exercise in which it was not the originator would be a mistake. True, the fundamental design architecture comes from the Mitsubishi i petrol car and iMiEV electric vehicle (and Citroen will also bring out its EV version in 2011) but it is inaccurate to say Peugeot has only stuck a badge on its front. Key design details differentiate the Peugeot from the Mitsubishi in the areas of aerodynamics, gearbox and powertrain design. The exterior design is almost exactly the same bar some cosmetic changes like the extra front fog lights low down either side of the number plate and a rear smoked black glass screen that extends downwards in the middle to accommodate a Peugeot badge atop it. But then the original design was already excellent, having won numerous awards for its package. Shorter than a Fiat Panda and narrower than the Smart fortwo, it is remarkably able to accommodate four six-foot adults plus 168 litres of luggage space and park where others wouldn’t dare. In subtle and significant ways however, the iOn is different inside and out.
Peugeot says:“Peugeot has a long history in the production of electric vehicles from the three-wheeled VLV of 1941 to the 106 electric of 1995. With the introduction of the iOn Peugeot will strengthen further its position as the leading producer of electric vehicles.”
Spec sheet:Four-seater full-electric city car from Mitsubishi re-skinned with a tweaked powertrain and design by Peugeot and, unlike various trial vehicles and niche brand novelties, set to be the first mainstream EV on sale in the UK
For example, attached to the rear wheel arch on each side is an additional thin skirting part that alongside a central flap mounted on the underside of the car, improves the car’s aerodynamics. Peugeot has also dispensed with Mitsubishi’s three-option automatic gearbox that includes beyond the simple ‘D’ for drive, a ‘B’ setting for higher regenerative brake recharging, useful on a long downhill stretches and an ‘Eco’ mode that cuts the power available for less energy-intensive ‘stop and start’ city driving. Peugeot believes although these settings are laudable in real-world conditions users tend not to use the modes for optimum range so have replaced them with a simpler gearbox that automatically assists greater regenerative braking as standard without affecting the ease of driving. Peugeot also says its engineers have been able to safely optimise more of the battery’s energy potential (using 95% rather than 90%). Collectively all these changes have enhanced the iOn’s range from 130km to 150km (or 80 to 93 miles). That might not seem much but can make all the difference to real-world driving and allay some range anxiety.
To drive, the car is as the iMiEV: very easy with brisk and whisper-quiet acceleration, light but reasonable steering and progressive brakes. Unlike the Mini E electric trial vehicle whose severe regenerative braking almost brings the car to a standstill when you take your foot off the accelerator, the iOn is much smoother, retaining forward motion in a manner much more akin to a conventionally-engined car. Indeed, compared to the Mitsubishi i petrol car it probably handles a little better due to the extra low-down weight of the heavy batteries under the seating, although in very wet weather with considerable surface water care should be taken on corners due to the vehicle’s thin wheels and its narrow and high sided stance. To recharge via the electric socket flap – don’t confuse it for the sealed petrol filler cap on the other side, a ghost from the car’s combustion engine past – takes six hours from a conventional UK socket for a 100% charge, but a quick charger will give 80% in 30 minutes.
Realistically the retail sticker price of all electric vehicles is prohibitive right now due to the high price of batteries so Peugeot is launching this car as a heavily subsidised lease-only vehicle. For a £415 per month fee customers get a four-year 40,000-mile contract including full warranty, servicing and maintenance. Factor in an average recharge cost of £2.50 for 120 miles plus congestion and parking exemptions in many cities like London and running costs will partially offset the high lease cost. However, Peugeot expects almost all of its circa 300-500 first year sales to be made to businesses wanting to be seen to be green. Still unlike so many other EVs, including Mitsubishi, this electric car is no longer a concept or a trial but the first properly safety-tested production-ready reality from a mainstream maker and for this Peugeot should be applauded.
Price: £415 pm (lease)
Engine: 47kW, 63bhp
0-62mph: 15.9 secs
Top speed: 80mph
Full recharge time: 6hrs
Tailpipe CO2: 0g/km