Two EVs For The Price Of One!

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Recently at a Coffee, Cake and EVs morning, a friend told me how he had just bought a Great Wall ORA Cat for only AU$30,000! That’s cheaper than a petrol Corolla! Mind you, the AU$6,000 government rebate helped. The ORA Cat was launched a year ago for $46,000 as the cheapest EV available in Australia. Now it is even cheaper. So he bought two and gave one to his son, to replace an aging Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV. Quite a story.

Two cars for the price of one
Electric cars at the recent Coffee, Cake and EVs event. The Ora is third from the end. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

Then the son contacted me and told me the full story. I hope you enjoy the read. The following is from Thomas Wyndham, with slight modification.

It all started one day when I was on YouTube and stumbled onto a video of Robert Llewellyn having his face peeled off by a Tesla. As a fan of Mr Llewellyn’s previous work in Red Dwarf and such, I kept watching his Fully Charged channel, which of course got me thinking about EVs. At the time, I had a Suzuki Swift Sport, and while it was a pretty cheap car to run, after my rent, it was the most expensive thing in my weekly budget. Just for fun one day, I went on CarSales, filtered for electric vehicles, and sorted by good old fashioned lowest to highest price. I discovered that just opposite from where I worked was a dealership selling the cheapest EVs in the country.

The dealership specialised in imported cars from Japan, including a number of Mitsubishi Minicab MiEVs; tiny, boxy, Kei vans that give the impression that someone cut out some window holes in a shoebox and stuck some office chair wheels on it. Underneath the van body was the same drivetrain of the i-MiEV hatchback that Mitsubishi used to make. I went for a test drive and was rather impressed. The low centre of gravity from the battery pack under the floor gave it a go-carty feel, and the instant torque and take-off actually made it feel pretty sporty, all while sitting high up in a practical van body. Despite my parents’ protests about not enough range or bursting into flames, in February 2019, I bought the van, a 2011 model, for AU$16,000, only $500 more than I sold the Swift for. It was a no-brainer for me, more practical and much cheaper.

The original traction battery pack was 16 kWh, and Mitsubishi claimed it was good for 150 kilometres. In reality, with the aircon on, you were looking at 80 kilometres around town. On the motorway, its brick-like aerodynamics meant it could only do about 60 kilometres before stopping. Given I barely left the suburbs, range was never an issue, until battery fade started kicking in, taking my urban range down to 60. Looking online, I found one person saying after much back and forth that Mitsubishi sold them a new traction 16 kWh battery for $16,000, not including installation.

Fortunately, Graeme, of Oz-DIY Electric, was just about to start his battery upgrade trade for these old Mitsubishis. For the same money, he could supply and install a new battery pack with about double the capacity, with $3,000 back for selling on my old battery pack. I thought maybe it would be used in stationary storage or something similar, but he told me military target practice drones. I was one of the first people to get the new battery pack in 2022, so some things were yet to be worked out. The van couldn’t comprehend having more battery capacity so would only use part of it until Graeme and his electric wizards figured out how to trick the van with their blackbox gizmo they fitted later.

The extra range wasn’t something I needed, but it certainly meant I ended up on the back of a tow truck less. I had a bit of a bad habit of pushing the van to see how much I could get out of it. The first time I needed a tow, I had just done a test run of a route a local EV group wanted to do a community drive on. I ran out of power on the ramp to the rooftop carpark, less than a hundred meters from where the fast charger was. Fast charging was always a little tricky, too. The first time I used one, I had spent the day running the battery down just so I could see how the fast charger works. When I got there, I discovered that the fast-charging lead didn’t reach all the way to the CHAdeMO port, behind the passenger door. I would have to park sideways across two parking spaces for it to reach. Fortunately, the only free bay was between a fence and a Tesla that was already full, idling on the other charger.

Two cars for the price of one
Can’t quite reach! Charging challenges. Photo courtesy Thomas Wyndham.

Despite their initial objections to me buying an EV, everyone loved calling me to help cart stuff around in the van. It is super practical and has huge cargo space for such a tiny car once you fold the rear bench down. My wife at the time we first got the van needed to use a wheelchair, and while it could fit folded in the Suzuki with the back seats down, it was obviously so much easier with the van, and meant we could also have the back seat up for more passengers at the same time. It is such a great car for around town too — massive windows all around and the high seating position give you excellent visibility, its turning circle is good enough to do a U turn on most streets without having to do a three-point turn, and it’s small enough you can easily nip through tight spaces.

I was looking forward to driving it around for another five years, planning some custom seat covers, and one Saturday ordering custom Japanese style number plates, to only be told the following Sunday that dad, who was one of the first to criticise buying an EV, was going to buy me a new Great Wall Motors Ora. Imagine my panic thinking about the international implications of a Chinese car with Japanese number plates.

Two cars for the price of one.
Charging success. Photo courtesy Thomas Wyndham.

Originally, after selling his car and motorhome, dad was thinking about getting a MG ZS EV. Then he was thinking about a BYD Seal. Before finally deciding that he could instead buy two Oras for the same price, one a 30th birthday present for me. I got him an $11 centre console tray organiser for his birthday a fortnight later, but it got lost in the post or something.

Two cars for the price of one
Tesla and the GWM Ora. Photo by Majella Waterworth

As much as I adore my little breadbox of a van, part of the deal for the new car was to sell it and partly repay my dad with the sale. I’m hoping to see it drive off with someone who’ll put it to good use. It’s a great little thing, and with its new battery should have plenty of life left to be useful.

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