AutoblogGreen's mini test drive of the Riva EV

The Reva electric car isn't new at all. It's already been on sale since 2001 in countries such as India, Sri Lanka, the UK, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Austria and the USA.

During the Barcelona International Motor Show, AutoblogGreen had the chance to do a (brief) test drive of the model with the excuse that it's just been put on sale for the Iberian market (Andorra, Portugal and Spain). We drove for about 5 miles around Montjuïc mountain, close to the Auto Show exhibition halls, so we found lots of ups and downs, plus a lot of traffic.

How did we find it? Continue reading after the jump.

First of all, the car really looks like any other quadricycle on the streets. In some European countries you can drive one of those cars (if powered with a 49cc motorbike engine) without a driver's license. The Reva, however, gets on the higher limit for those types of vehicles and a regular A or B license is required (Motorbike/car).

Once inside, it's not roomy at all. Actually, the Sales Manager of the company that sells them in Spain told us that the 2008 model had a lowered seat. I'm barely 5'9" and I could touch the roof of the car with my head. The materials were very plasticky but the gear selector was very cool (a dial on the left of the instruments). It's claimed to be a 2+2 but you only want your dog to sit on the back.

We selected the higher gear and off we went. The car has two gears. For normal driving you can use the higher ratio, but when climbing on hills, there's a lower gear selector that keeps up speed better. It doesn't feel like a very fast car, although it's by far better than any other quadricycle on the market. We could keep up with traffic effortlessly, so power was adequate.

Braking was the main issue. The current model has drum brakes with regenerative braking and no servo. Therefore it gets some time to realise that you have to push the brake firmly. We were also told that braking was to be improved for 2008 with disks and servo.

So here's some technical data:

  • Maximum speed: 70 km/h (43 mph) - this allows the car to be driven on highways.
  • Consumption: 0.15 kWh/km
  • Measures (mm): 2638/1324/1510 (slightly longer than a Smart)
  • Weight: 665 kg (1478 pounds - batteries included)
  • Automatic transmission
  • 13kW (18 HP)
  • Maximum torque: 52Nm
  • 0-40 km/h (0-25mph): 7 seconds

About the batteries/powertrain: Lead-acid linked to an triphasic induction motor. The battery pack is the same that powers electric forklifts so it's very rugged. However, batteries need to be changed every 3 years (at 1,100 EUR cost) and at least one out of five recharging cycles must be full charge. 80 percent of charge is available in 2-3 hours from a home power source. Estimated cost of battery charge: 1 EUR. There are plans to install lithium batteries for the 2009-10 model but they're unavailable now.

It's better than gasoline- or diesel-powered quadricycles but the anxiety of not being able to charge the car anywhere is too strong to make it a power seller. The battery pack, although, is very rugged and trustworthy. Pricing is very reasonable, from 11,000 to 13,000 EUR depending on installing A/C or radio, even cheaper than some gasoline competitors.


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