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EPA Rates Mitsubishi i at 112 MPGe

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author photo by Nick Chambers July 2011

Mitsubishi's new electric car, the i, isn't set to hit US dealerships until January 2012, but the EPA has already released the 'fuel' economy label the car will carry when it goes on sale. With a combined city and highway rating of 112 miles per gallon-equivalent (MPGe), the i will be the most efficient mass-produced passenger vehicle available in the United States.

If you're new to electric car lingo, the MPGe label can be a bit confusing. But since it's used on all vehicles that run on electricity, it's important to understand. Although no gallons of anything are being burned when an electric car is driving under electric power alone, the EPA has calculated that one-gallon of gasoline equals 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity-hence the "equivalent" portion of the label.

It may not be intuitive, but all it means is that the Mitsubishi i can travel 112 miles on 33.7 kWh of electricity. However, given that the i has a battery pack that can only carry 16 kWh of electricity it won't be able to travel anywhere close to 112 miles on one charge. In fact, the EPA has estimated the i will only travel 62 miles on a full charge under a combination of city and highway driving. The EPA rated the i at 126 MPGe in the city and 99 MPGe on the highway.

With specifications that clearly place it more in the realm of a city car rather than an all-around vehicle, Mitsubishi envisions that the i will be a "second or even a third car," as Russell Roll, Mitsubishi Communications Manager, told AutoTrader.com during a preview of the i in Japan last week.

The i weighs about 1,000 pounds less than the Nissan Leaf - it's closest all-electric competitor - so it is no surprise the i beats the Leaf's 99 MPGe rating. However, due to its larger 24 kWh battery pack, the Leaf is capable of traveling 73 miles on one charge according to the EPA, although most Leaf owners are finding they have a real-world range of around 80 to 90 miles. Mitsubishi also says that i drivers should expect a real-world range of more than the EPA's 62 mile estimate because most trips will be at lower speeds and around town.

To try and express range for the i in real-world numbers, Mitsubishi tested it using the EPA's LA4 test cycle, which covers a distance of about 7.5 miles and includes stops along the route to simulate in-town driving. Under the LA4 test the Leaf returns about 100 miles of range on a full charge, which matches the real world experiences of most Leaf owners. Impressively, the Mitsubishi i also has a range of about 100 miles under the LA4 test even though its battery pack is one-third smaller than the Leaf's.

For the frugal among us, the EPA estimates the i's annual 'fuel' cost, based on average US utility rates and driving patterns, will be $495 - saving an i driver more than $10,000 over the course of five years compared to the fuel costs for a typical vehicle.

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EPA Rates Mitsubishi i at 112 MPGe - Autotrader