It’s not every day that you see an electric vehicle driving down the street. Certainly for me, I don’t see electric vehicles parked in the garage of my building. So, when given the opportunity to test drive the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, I jumped at it. I always wondered what it would be like to drive an electric vehicle on the streets and freeways of San Diego.
Enter the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Starting at $29,975 for the ES model, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is among the least expensive entries into the electric vehicle market. If you opt for the SE model, you will get options like navigation, rear-view camera, and an upgraded stereo system for $31,975. Subtract the Federal tax incentive of $7,500, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV will run you only $22,475 for the ES model and $24,475 for the SE model. The numbers look even better if you live in a state like California where there is an additional state level rebate.
What do you get for your money?
Well, you get a 16 kWh lithium ion battery that propels the i-MiEV to a top speed of 81 mph and an EPA rated 126 MPGe. The combined highway/city range of the i-MiEV is 62 miles. Standard home charging time is 22 hours using a 120V outlet. With a 240V charging dock, charging time drops significantly down to 7 hours.
Down to brass tacks – How does the car drive?
When I saw my raspberry colored i-MiEV in SE trim unloaded, I said to myself, this car can’t drive that well. Actually, I could not be more wrong. This is a fun little car that gets you around town and accomplishes your daily tasks with ease. Sure, it’s not flashy, but it gets you from point A to point B. The car gets good looks from the Hello-Kitty crowd, but that appeared to be it. BMW drivers looked over and laughed. My response to those who laughed is simply this: I won’t be seeing you at the gas station. You’re not going to break any land speed records, but I’m sure that is just fine on a day-to-day basis, especially for those of us who have a lead foot.
The first thing you notice when you get behind the wheel of the i-MiEV is that the design offers the driver a very good view of the road in front of you. The interior is basic, but provides all the normal creature comforts. The interior is also surprisingly roomy. The i-MiEV can hold 4 average size American adults comfortable with room to spare. When transporting a couple of friends down to one of the local watering holes in the North Park area, one friend said on more than one occasion, “This is better than a Smart Car.”
Around the downtown area of San Diego and the surrounding neighborhoods like Hillcrest, North Park, and Normal Heights, the i-MiEV is the perfect vehicle to drive to run your day-to-day errands. As the red light turns green, you can easily surprise other drivers around you by stepping on the pedal and going. For sure, one unsuspecting Acura MDX driver who curiously looked over at the i-MiEV was shocked when I took off as the light turned green. If you don’t over do it on the pedal and stick the car in regenerative braking mode, you will notice that your range will drop at a much slower rate while accomplishing your tasks effortlessly.
On the freeway, the i-MiEV handles well, though going past 75 mph felt a little awkward. Then again, the speed limit is 65 mph. On I-5 north, the i-MiEV performed well, both going up to the La Jolla area and back downtown. However, on one stretch of the I-805, you could really feel the poor road conditions in the car as the vibrations from the pedal to the steering wheel became quite uncomfortable. Overall, I consider that to be a small price to pay for being energy independent.
As you drive, you will see an indicator in front of you telling you how many miles remain. Ultimately, how quickly you burn through those miles is a function of how you drive, whether you have the air conditioning on, the terrain of the roads you are driving on, and traffic among others. This is not unlike driving your run of the mill gas powered car. The one sacrifice is limited range. However, for most of us the range of the i-MiEV is more than enough to accomplish your day-to-day tasks.
What about charging?
Well, that was the dilemma for me. There are no available outlets in my garage. I was available to tap into an outlet that the construction guys are currently using to augment my mileage a little to give me some piece of mind that I would be able to get to the office in the morning. Searching for charging stations was somewhat inconvenient. The in-car navigation does not have a feature that tells you where the nearest charging station is. Many of the charging stations near my home are in parking garages where you have to first pay to park and then pay to charge. I think that defeats the whole purpose. One or the other, not both please. Luckily, there were a few Blink charging stations near my office, so all I had to do was park the car (free) and plug in (not free).
If you are looking for a basic commuter car or a car to run errands in, the i-MiEV will surely satisfy your requirements. It won’t get you to Los Angeles from San Diego, but there is always Amtrak for that. This is an every day car that is easy to live with as long as you can charge it.
Walter Wang is Managing Editor of CleanTechies. Follow Walter on Twitter: @energytaxprof