September 4th, 2012 by Charis Michelsen
Hi! I’m Charis, and I write about cars (among other important things). For one whole week, I have a Mitsubishi i-MiEV parked in front of my apartment, courtesy of Mitsubishi, and I get to play. You get to come along for the ride. Further updates will appear on this page as I do stuff to and with the car.
Some technicalities about the i-MiEV: It’s from Japan, which means it’s super cute. According to the official page, it gets 112 MPGe (really, though, MPGe kind of makes no sense to me, but we’re just going to go with it), is of course zero emission, and has a range of 62 miles per charge. According to the very polite gentleman who dropped it off, the cord in the back will handle a level 1 charge (120 V AC, 16 A; 22 hours for a full charge) or a level 2 charge (208-240 V AC, 12 A – 80 A; 7 hours per charge). There’s a level 3 charger (or a quick charger) on the other side of the car, but apparently this particular one isn’t set up for it. That gets you to 80% of a full battery in 30 minutes starting from no charge at all.
Day One — 12:05pm
At this point, the car has been in my parking space for half an hour. It’s adorable. It’s super cute. It is quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen. It is possible that I am not entirely objective about this specific electric car (or electric cars in general, but come on, guys, zero emissions, how is that not awesome). It also comes with a nifty little remote control which will heat/cool the battery in extreme weather conditions (-10/100+ degrees Fahrenheit), which improves battery life. It’s also super easy to find inside my large bag full of lots of stuff, so that’s another plus.
Upon driving it around the corner to park it, it handles like a car. I know, everyone says that. But it’s true, it handles like a car. I have been specifically told not to plug it in with an extension cord, but the OEM cord doesn’t actually reach my patio. So the first trip is to get an extension cord, because I don’t actually own one (and also milk, because I’m out of that too, and it’s right next door anyway).
The steering is tight and the car does not oversteer, which I love. I do not like my cars floaty or twitchy (this is why I do not get along with a Lancia anything), and this is perfect.
The inside of the car is a little bit plastic-looking (the door handle, for example), and it’s really reminiscent of a kei car (I used to own a kei car and am intimately familiar with the stereotype). I can see how this might not appeal to an American aesthetic, but it’s perfectly functional, and like I said, I think it’s cute.
Day One — 12:15pm
To turn the car on, you just turn the key and wait for the flashy green “READY” light to come on; that’s the only way you know it’s on, because it’s electric, it doesn’t make any noise. Shifting is exactly like an automatic — put your foot on the brake and move the lever. I love this, because I love automatics and really wish that all manual cars I am ever expected to drive will burn in a fiery pit. (Hey, if you want to drive a manual, DO IT, just keep it away from me.)
There are three modes in which the i-MiEV goes forward — D, Eco, and B. I’m in Eco mode, which I’m told gives it the most range it can get (except for B, which is for stop-and-go traffic, and the B is for Regenerative Braking, or harvesting the energy from the brakes to put back into the battery, which, by the way, super awesome). So I’m in eco mode and it is super super slow off the line.
Every display in the car is some sort of touchscreen or electric; this is super cool now, and hopefully it will not wear down horribly over the years. This is not, actually, a problem specific to electric cars; everything I saw at the last three auto shows I went to had touchscreens all over, and those don’t last as long as cars do. On the plus side, there is a super cute little display in the dash that cycles through a bunch of different displays up to and including how much range you have left.
Something else odd — in an ICE car, I do a lot of coasting up to traffic lights and stop signs to improve my gas mileage. If I try this in the i-MiEV, it loses momentum immediately and I have to hit the accelerator again. This is not a bad thing, just a different thing.
Day One — 12:18pm
I’ve gone all of two miles in this and it is super super quiet, it’s amazing, it’s wonderful. Every other car on the road is super loud and horrible and I hate them all.
Day One — 12:43pm
Standard drive mode is much more responsive than Eco mode. There’s a little bit of get-up-and-go to it, and it doesn’t appear to have killed the range off in the two miles between my apartment and the hardware store. It’s really smooth on the road, as well.
When shifting into reverse, the camera mounted in the rear of the car displays its feed onto the center console. This is incredibly helpful for not hitting things that may have appeared behind your car while you weren’t looking, less so for actually backing into a parking place.
Oh! The radio! I don’t actually listen to the radio when I drive, but I turned it on to see how it was. (We get crap radio stations around here is how it was, but that’s not Mitsubishi’s fault.) It sounds great — some of this, I’m sure, is due to the fact that the radio is not competing with the engine for how much noise it can drill into your skull.
Day One — 2:58pm
So the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is actually pretty easy to charge, it turns out. I’m driving to my sister’s this evening, and she lives 28 miles away, in the heart of the city. So I went to plug in the car and hit my first snag. I have a 12-gauge extension cord, so I plug in the car, I plug the OEM cord into the extension cord, and I plug the extension cord into the outlet. Then I look at the charger. There are supposed to be three blinky lights; red means there’s a problem with the outlet, orange means the car is charging, and blue means the car is finished charging.
At this point, the charger is sitting on the sidewalk in front of my apartment, it’s hot out, and none of the blinky lights are going at all. I unplugged everything, backed the car into the parking space, and plugged things back in again (so the charger is now sitting on a rock in front of the apartment instead of on the sidewalk). Still nothing.
That was when I figured out I had to flip a switch inside to turn the outlet on. The charger immediately started blinking its little blue dance of o hai ur car is charged. Success!! If you’re curious, I have thirty seconds of inane video of the cord. And the car. Right here.
PS — the car will not even turn on while it is plugged into the wall! That seems like a superb safety feature.
Further Updates As Things Happen.
Also, I take both requests for experiments with the i-MiEV (within reason, guys) and will also happily answer any questions (car-related, okay) — just tell me in the comments below!
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