Real-world test runs of the all-electric Foton Midi started on Monday, after being postponed from late 2010 and scaled down from 500 cars as originally planned to just 50. The 50 test cars will serve as taxicabs in a remote corner of Beijing, Yanqing, so visitors to the capital will not see one of them stranded on Tiananmen Square.
Beijing-based Foton is at the center of an EV alliance organized by the local government, which also includes two universities, a bus company and a battery maker. In early 2010, Foton said 500 Midi EVs would appear on Beijing’s streets before the year-end, each of them having a range of 200km. As December approached, we heard that only 50 cars would be on test runs, the test area would be limited to Yanqing, and the car’s range was 180km. Then the trial was said to start before the Spring Festival, which fell in early February. When it was finally launched on March 1, Foton stated, without explaining the discrepancies, that the Midi EV could run as far as 140km on one charge.
To no one’s surprise, the trouble is with the lithium-ion batteries, which get killed by Beijing’s freezing winter. In February, according to one driver, the Midi EV had difficulties speeding up, only runing at a low speed of 5-10km/h, while the indictor showed 40% of battery power left. Another said his assigned car could not go beyond 60km/h although Foton put the maximum speed at 160km/h.
The Midi EV also disappoints by taking 8 hours to fully recharge under 220V, which reduces operation time and income for the taxi drivers. The fast charging mode takes only 30 minutes to reach 70% full, but shortens battery life.
You can click here for more details of the Midi EV (the specifications were from official description Foton given at last year’s Beijing Auto Show).