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2012 Mitsubishi I-MiEV - Electric Benefits Meet Electric Anxiety

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author photo by Autotrader December 2010

"I’m a little nervous." This was my daughter’s conclusion when I picked up her cross-country practice carpool in the battery-electric Mitsubishi I-MiEV.

Her concern arose from the car’s prediction that 23 km range remained in the battery and the drive home was 12 miles. Worse yet, it was rush hour on the day after the change back to standard time, which meant I was using the range-reducing headlights.

We got home with 4 km of range remaining after dropping off her teammates, illustrating how a few daytime errands can quickly put a battery EV in a tight spot in the absence of quick-charging facilities. Welcome to the world of range anxiety.

For my week-long experiment in EV living, I relied entirely on the 110-volt charger that because the included 220-volt plug had the wrong prongs to go into the dryer outlet in my house. That meant overnight charges rather than mid-day top-offs, but it proved to be manageable. Mitsubishi will offer home 220-volt charger installation through Best Buy’s familiar Geek Squad tech support organization, saving customers the hassle of finding an electrician.

Maximum range in the I-MiEV is supposed to be 100 km, but the longest projected range it showed during a week of driving was 73 km, or about 45 miles.

Driving an EV is an experiment in roller coaster emotions as range dips precipitously after a burst of acceleration, but then recovers by holding steady for miles afterward when driven gently.

Nothing like the prospect of having the car towed home to focus the attention on gentle driving.

It also tests the driver’s willingness to live without the benefit of climate control. Seat heaters in particular slash the range by 10 km when switched on, and restore it when switched back off.

The I-MiEV is a tiny Japanese-market model about the size of a Smart car that has been stretched to add a back seat. The company has developed a four-inch-wider version of the car that will be offered in the U.S., providing the extra elbow room American drivers demand.

In the 168 miles total that I drove the I-MiEV it used about 42 KW, which translates to about $4.20 on the electric bill. A car this size would probably use about four gallons of gas in that same distance, about $12 worth, so the savings could really add up.

Eventually we’ll get more comfortable with finite electric range and there will be more quick-charge stations providing a safety net. Then the benefits of driving electric will include fuel diversification – leaving us less dependant on any single source of fuel and the ability to charge batteries using domestic sources of fuel rather than funding various despotic regimes to fuel late-night runs to the Wendy’s drive-through.

Look for a chance to buy Mitsubishi’s electric goodness about this time next year for a price starting below $30,000 sans tax credits or other incentives. This undercuts Nissan’s Leaf, but that car is very much more a normal size and it seems likely that American drivers will probably prefer a slightly larger car for slightly more money. We’ll find out next year.

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Used 2011 Mitsubishi Galant SE
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Mitsubishi I-MiEV - Electric Benefits Meet Electric Anxiety - Autotrader