We tested a new electric vehicle: 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEv

Test Drives | September 30th, 2015 by 11
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September 12-20 was National Drive Electric Week. The initiative aims at raising awareness of all-electric vehicles that, “…are fun to drive, are less expensive and …

September 12-20 was National Drive Electric Week. The initiative aims at raising awareness of all-electric vehicles that, “…are fun to drive, are less expensive and more convenient to fuel than gasoline vehicles, are better for the environment, promote local jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil”. Some of that sounds like a political agenda. But there are some compelling reasons to a least try an electric vehicle, if not just for the novelty. We won’t lie, it took quite a bit of convincing for us to even consider the idea. Electric cars just aren’t our thing. In the end, the timing was right and we couldn’t justify passing on an opportunity to sample one. Of course, when you’re trying to raise awareness of the benefits of EVs, you do come up against the argument of price. So we started with the most affordable 100% electric vehicle on the market today, the Mitsubishi i-MiEv.

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The i-MiEv starts at $22,995. Add in the only option, the $2,000 Navigation Package, and the Mitsubishi reached $25,845 before the $7,500 Federal tax credit. Underneath this adorable orb, a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery powers a 49 kW motor. That translates into a 66 horsepower engine with a 62 mile effective range. This is a city car. It’s small, nimble, and works great in traffic. But we don’t live in a city. So how would the i-MiEv experience be in the country? We kept a log of our first EV experience to find out.

Day 1

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The car arrived fully charged with the onboard indicator showing an optimistic 73 mile range. With temperatures forecast to reach 93 degrees, I’m going to need that air conditioning. Turning on the A/C drops the range counter to 64 miles without even leaving the driveway. My daily commute is 42 miles round-trip so there should be no issue, but there are no charging stations on my route should I need to top up. I won’t be charging until I’m home again. The i-MiEv passes the test. I arrived at work with 41 miles of range and returned home with 23 miles left over.

Day 2

I awoke to a problem. The car didn’t have time to fully recharge overnight. The i-MiEv arrives with an 8A/12A Level 1 charging cable. My garage is only capable of using the 8amp, 110V charging system. In EV speak, that’s Level 1 and translates to a 22 hour charge time. Had my garage had a 12amp, 220V circuit, the charge time would drop to 14 hours. Exchanging a once-a-week, 5 minute stop to pump those horrible hydrocarbons into my car with a nightly, 14-hour charge doesn’t exactly come across as “more convenient”.

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Either way, I now had to embark on a 42 mile one-way trip to a friend’s house with 54 miles of indicated range. Yesterday’s “leftover” range imbued a sense of EV bravado. Cruising comfortably down the highway with the A/C on was a unique experience. There’s nothing but wind noise on the highway, easily drowned out by the meager 100-watt stereo. The absence of engine vibration signals to your brain that something isn’t quite normal. But the visibility is excellent and the i-MiEv managed to stay with traffic and keep a low profile. All was well…

Until I did a bit of mental math. With 12 miles to go, the Mitsubishi showed just 16 miles of range left. Knowing the last 2 miles climbed steeply uphill, I shut off the A/C and dropped into Eco mode. Eco mode reduces battery output and increases the intervention of the regenerative brakes. I ran through several what-if scenarios if I found myself stranded. None of them seemed like very much fun. I changed my driving style – slow gentle acceleration, minimal braking. I needed to be efficient as possible. As the temperature in the car began to rise, I narrowly skirted through a yellow light…stopping would have cost too much energy. One sweat-drenched shirt and many chewed finger nails later, I arrived with 4 miles to spare. Range anxiety is real.

This, of course, lead to another problem. Even after arriving at my destination and convincing my friend to let me borrow some electrons, I faced an almost 20-hour wait to sufficiently recharge for the return trip. After 7 hours, the i-MiEv had only gained 25 miles of range. A quick search on the i-MiEv’s touchscreen navigation system lead to the discovery of a free charging station at a nearby gym. Thankfully, the gym was next to a bar. I had sweat enough for one day.

The Level 2 charging station was managed by ChargePoint, a company that boasts almost 24,000 charging locations across the globe. To use the ChargePoint station, you need a ChargePoint account. To get a ChargePoint account, you need to sign up online and be mailed a card. You scan the card at the charging station and it releases one of the plugs. None of this does you much good when you’re standing in parking lot at 8:00pm without enough range to get home. There’s also no credit card reader or bill slot on the machine. Thankfully, ChargePoint has a helpful app, also not advertised on the machine, where you can register, sign in, and unlock the charger. The app also tells you, based on which vehicle you register, how many miles are added per hour. Just over two hours later, I had enough range to get home. I plugged in the i-MiEv with 12 miles left.

Day 3

Yesterday’s late return and the i-MiEv’s 22 hour charge time meant I didn’t have enough range to go round-trip to work the next day. If the premise was to use the i-MiEv as a daily driver, it failed halfway through the test. Back to internal combustion for a day.

Day 4

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With a full charge and full Saturday morning to-do list, the i-MiEv is finally in its element. Around town, the instant torque from the electric motor makes it perfect to jump into traffic. There’s no long trip to induce anxiety. With regenerative braking in its most aggressive mode, you learn to drive with a single pedal. It’s the most efficient method and acts as some level of mental escape from the i-MiEv’s interior.  For the most affordable EV to stay inexpensive, it gets minimal luxury treatment. Hollow plastics and hard, manual seats show the true price of frugality. The owner’s manual rationalizes the standard heated seats as more efficient than the HVAC system as a means of warming up on cold mornings. We wouldn’t know that if the switches had been mounted somewhere rational.

Day 5

Sometimes the hardest thing about a car is finding a location to photograph it. Not so with the i-MiEv. This is a city car being used well outside its comfort zone…in a county where someone’s other car could legitimately be a tractor. We want to show it as such, so it was off to a corn field. The soft hum of the electric motor and the crunch of gravel under the narrow tires are the only noises present as the i-MiEv crawls down the dirt access road. This must be what David Scott experienced as the first man to drive on the moon. Sort of.

Day 6

The last day with the i-MiEv was much like the first; 64 miles to start, plenty of air conditioning, and 24 miles when it was said and done. What had left, after a week to get acquainted with the most affordable EV on the market, was the trepidation.

There’s a first time for everything. And the Mitsubishi i-MiEv was the logical place to start. It exposes you to the bare minimum capabilities of the electric car. Its unabashedly inexpensive on the EV spectrum, but undercut by one of its own stablemates. For just over $17,000, you could have a similarly equipped Mitsubishi Mirage. With a 9.2 gallon tank and an EPA average of 40 mpg, it has an effective range in excess of 350 miles. During the course of the week, we traveled less than 350 miles, recharged 7 times, and had to leave the i-MiEv behind once. As a daily driver in Upstate New York, it just doesn’t work.

There are cases where the electric car is a viable alternative. Parts of the country have a more mature EV support network. You don’t have to spend much more to own an EV with a larger operating range. And the lack of regular service intervals is an incentive to some audiences. But the i-MiEv is a niche car in a niche segment. And if you aren’t one of a very small percentage of people, that makes it very hard to justify.

Article by LimitedSlipBlog

11 responses to “We tested a new electric vehicle: 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEv”

  1. Chris Llana says:

    If you own an EV, you install a Level 2, 240-volt EVSE at your house. In the case of the i-Miev, this will give you a full charge in 6 hours. The i-Miev can also use a DC quick-charge, which will charge to 80% in 30 minutes.

    • Chris, I agree with you. I’ve met multiple people who have not installed the charger and a lot of us journalists don’t have the Level 2 chargers at our homes as well.
      I took the I-MiEv to a level 2 charging station a couple times and it worked far better that way than the level 1 charging at home.
      You are correct though, I would heavily recommend installation of the level 2 charging, and then charging in the off hours overnight when power usage is low.

      • Brian says:

        So if you were equipped properly, day 2 and 3 would not have happened that way.

        • Correct, but we don’t own level 2 stations, so it’s a perspective of that consumer. More of an enlightening experience than you can imagine…strange not being able to take a car places because it’s too far.

          • William says:

            Most people who actually buy an EV are also going to buy a level 2 charger for it. And to reiterate, yes, a level 2 charger brings the time for a full charge close to 6 hours, not 14. (Even just doubling the voltage halves the time, and 3/2 the amps means 2/3 the time, so 22 * 1/2 * 2/3 = 7 1/3 hours — but the actual level 2 draw for an i-MiEV is up to 13.75 amps, and there are additional savings due to constant drains that don’t change at the higher charging level.)

            Of course, depending on one’s circumstances, it’s possible to live with only level 1 charging, as I did for several months. I know some other i-MiEV owners who’ve done it for years. But I think they’re weird. :)

          • lee colleton says:

            I’ve lived with level-1 charger for the entirety of my 3 years of i-MiEV ownership. The availability of public level-2 and DCFC chargers make this manageable.

          • Chris Llana says:

            Yes, EVs are not the best choice if you need to drive long distances, or want to, or imagine that you might. I recently talked to a (retired) friend about EVs. After admitting that he normally drove just one mile per day, he said he wouldn’t want to drive an electric car across the desert (he said for example, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas—a 270-mile drive). Knowing him, he wouldn’t want to drive from LA to Vegas at all, in any car. But that was his reason for not wanting to test drive an EV.

            Many people are simply psychologically not ready to switch to an electric car. They are different. You have to abandon long-held habits and learn new routines. For these people, they should keep buying ICE cars. For people who are intrigued by electric, but still not ready to abandon gasoline, plug-in hybrids are a good choice. They provide the psychological security of a conventional car, but let them get used to driving electric (they will like it, and their next car may be an EV).

            The point is, ICE-fans should not feel that EVs are being forced on them, explicitly or implicitly. They are just another option that works very well for many people. Electric cars are not meant to replace ICE cars altogether, not any time in the foreseeable future. But having lots of choices is a good thing.

          • Brian says:

            As others have stated, not having a level 2 charger at home for your EV is atypical, rendering your test not applicable to most situations. So, what you need to do is simulate having a level 2 charger available. Do this by charging the vehicle as long as it takes to get completely charged before beginning the day. This is valid because a level 2 charger will completely charge the car by morning. If the car does not have a full charge on a particular morning, that day is not counted toward the test. The next morning it will be completely charged and ready to continue the test. The good part about this is that you can do the test without having to buy the equipment.

  2. Steve:O says:

    I find it interesting that the author concludes “… the i-MiEv is a niche car in a niche segment.” and implies (after describing his pathetic charging abilities) that most EVs are niche products. In fact, most of the US population does not have driving patterns like upstate New Yorkers. EVs, as has been widely discussed, meet somewhere around 80% to 90% of the nation’s driving needs. As a second car, as a primary car in most urban/suburban areas, for people who understand and are willing to provide needed charging outlets in their homes, EVs would be a great fit. Oh for the day when ICE cars are seen as “niche” products.

    • lee colleton says:

      My i-MiEV fits into the “90% niche” for me. My second car can do distance and the fact that it runs on biodiesel is the only reason I hang onto it. It’s impossible to rent a diesel car from a major rental company in the US, let alone a biodiesel car.

  3. Dave W says:

    The charging cable that came with the 2016 Imiev is a dual rate type. It had the option of charging at 8 amps or 12 amps. It depended on how well or good the circuit on the house side was. If the house is new and the circuit was rated at 15 amps then the 12 amp setting would have been fine. If the house was built in 1932 or that circuit was shared with other appliances then the 8 amp setting would be the better choice.
    The cable or the wall charger only provides the electricity to the vehicle. It is the on board charger (OBC) that converts the AC to DC and ups from 120v or 220v DC to 330v AC to charge the traction battery. The OBC in the vehicle is rated at 14.5 amps. You can have a 30 amp wall unit but the car will only charge as high as 14.5 amps.During charging of the traction battery, the OBC also charges the 12v battery that operates the ECUs in the vehicle.

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