Mini Electric awaits government nod

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Thai electric-car maker Clean Fuel Energy Enterprise (C-FEE) is a company you might hear more of in future – if the government grants it a licence to sell its products locally.

The latest product from the Kingdom’s only maker of electric cars is the Mini Electric, a replica of the previous generation Mini except for the batteries and motor under the hood instead of an engine. The electric motor can propel the car up to 60kph while the batteries last for a distance of 130 kilometres before needing to be recharged. The cost of one recharge adds just Bt35 to your electricity bill.

“Our cars are safe, pollution-free and save on fuel bills. We have already delivered products in Manhattan and [elsewhere in] New York, but the government in Thailand has been very reluctant to give us the rights to sell them here,” says Morakot Charnsomrud, owner of C-FEE.

The Mini Electric is priced at Bt490,000, including air-conditioning and stereo, and Morakot says he has received about 300 orders already. The car is available with two different suspensions: leaf-spring and coil-spring.

Journalists were not allowed to drive the cars since they were prototypes, but we were driven around in them. The top speed of 60kph might not be adequate even for city driving, but the silence with which the car operates is definitely commendable. Gear changes are by flicking a button on the front console.

Morakot also displayed the car’s braking capability, and mentioned that government officials had said the car needed to be taken to the Bridgestone proving ground for measuring on an even surface.

When asked why the electric car was based on a Mini, C-FEE engineers replied that it was the perfect city car in which to display their ideas. Besides the Mini, C-FEE has also developed a tuk-tuk and a motorcycle that run on electricity.

The C-FEE Mini would be a very welcome addition to the automotive market now that fuel prices are on the rise, and Morakot seems intent on making it happen. The price might be the major drawback, although the safety features in the rattling prototype we rode also raised doubts.

Vijo Varghese

The Nation

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