Happy Saturday! It’s Charis again; 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. Technicalities about the i-MiEV are up here.
Day Three, 2:34pm
So now I’m getting used to the i-MiEV. However, there’s one thing that keeps surprising me; every time you turn on the car, there is a little screen telling you to obey all the rules of the road. If you want to use the touch screen to do anything at all, you have to click “OK.” I’m not sure what I think about this. I’m pretty sure I know how to drive, Mitsubishi, I have valid driver’s licenses in two countries.
I am now starting out on my second 65-mile round trip, to collect my stepsister. She doesn’t drive, or I would just have her transport herself to my place. Actually, that’s a lie. I’ll take any excuse to drive the i-MiEV I can get.
Day Three, 2:38pm
The next thing I’m trying to do is get the i-MiEV to play my music. Did I tell you that there’s a USB port below the dash so that you can plug things in? This seems like something I would have said. I plugged my iPod into the USB and tried to make it go. And this happened:
You know how there’s an iPod classic? I like to say I have a classic iPod, by which I mean I’ve had it since 2004. I think the i-MiEV is not backwards compatible that far back. (Or I have the wrong cable.) On the plus side for Mitsubishi, I don’t think this is going to be a common issue.
Day Three, 3:05pm
I’m still in eco mode, because 65 mile round trip, and I want to be able to drive around a bit after we get back to my place. (I like eco mode, okay, the car goes farther.) The navi has directed me onto a freeway with a 55mph speed limit, and the i-MiEV in eco mode is handling it just fine. (It’s not accelerating quickly up to 55, but that’s what the right lane is for.)
It also at this point occurs to me that the tires on the i-MiEV are special; they’re low-resistance tires, and they’re kind of tiny. Both of these particularities help the car move more easily, thus giving it more range. They feel fine in sunny normal road conditions, but at this point I’m wondering how they’ll hold up in the rain. I’ll try to find a thunderstorm before Monday to test them out.
Day Three, 3:54pm
Okay, I’ve discovered the drawback to the i-MiEV’s preloaded navi system: It does not take traffic into account, at all, it does not warn you about traffic, there is no option to turn on traffic conditions, and it sent me right into the middle of this:
It gets better (by which I mean worse).
That? That’s the same intersection. I can’t specifically blame this on Mitsubishi, I guess.
I did notice that in the ridiculous heat and literally inching forward, the battery level dropped a surprising amount – I was in this for maybe 3/4 of a mile and it took 38 minutes, and the range indicator dropped from 67 to 59. This was a stark contrast to the traffic snarl on Monday, which was literally stop and go; the stopping part actually charged up the battery because regenerative braking is fantastic. In this mess, it was just inch-forward-a-little-more-now-wait, and the i-MiEV apparently does not like that.
Day Three, 3:55pm
Sudden yellow light followed by sudden stop! Yes, the brakes were fine. However, I was nearly rear-ended by a minivan at the next stop light, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that i-MiEV slows drastically when the accelerator is released (regenerative braking) but the visual cue of the brake lights does not clue in other drivers to the sudden change of speed. Note the needle implying rapid deceleration to you and you alone. (Of course, it is also possible that said minivan just wasn’t paying attention, because that’s only happened once.)
Day Four, 7:01am
It’s raining! Not a thunderstorm, but now we get to play with the i-MiEV and its unusual tires in less-than-ideal road conditions. I also got to look at the charger, which ended up sitting outside in the rain before I unplugged everything (the one end of the cord was inside my apartment, so I was not handling live wet plugs, which you should never ever do). The charger didn’t care that it was raining, it was still glowing properly.
Day Four, 7:07am
…the passenger side wiper blade is bent at an angle to properly accommodate the slightly narrow slightly long windshield:
Day Four, 7:09am
Suddenly, a swiftly braking Nissan Maxima! I did not hit it. I was in no danger of hitting it, even though I may have been tailgating it ever so slightly. The tires and brakes are okay in the rain.
Day Four, 8:18am
Two things here. One is that this is the first time I’ve driven with the windows up (because rain), and I just noticed that the car does a decent job of keeping out traffic and road noise from outside. I can still hear things, but combined with the lack of engine noise, it’s pretty quiet.
The other is that blithely ignoring the posted speed limits on the freeway exit ramp feels less safe in the i-MiEV, particularly when it’s raining and the road is slippery. I’m not sure if that speaks more to the general safety of the car, or the general (apparent lack of) safety of my driving habits.
Day Four, 9:37am
This is where I hit the first insurmountable obstacle; having driven my stepsister back home (65 mile round trip south), I now have to make a 130 mile round trip in an entirely different direction. There is no way I can do this with the i-MiEV – I don’t have time to charge it even with a Level 2 charger (and there are some around here) before I have to drive north, and even if I did, my destination city does not have a single level 2 charger in it. This is how I know.
I am going to have to make the longer round trip in my ICE Ford. For the first time, the range on the Mitsubishi is insufficient for what I need to do. However, this is an unusual day for me; in three months, I have needed 80+ miles/day precisely four times. If the i-MiEV were my primary vehicle, I would probably solve this issue with a Zipcar. But it isn’t, so this happened:
Day Four, 2:56pm
The i-MiEV has been charging maybe five hours and has half a “tank” left, and I’m now going 16 miles out to visit a friend (and show off the sweet, sweet awesomeness of a battery-powered electric car). The range indicator shows 44 miles, but I know I’ll be coming home in the dark (headlights do reduce the range a bit). Solution: Find a public charging station with a Level 2 charger. With the map we had earlier, this is easy.
Day Four, 3:47pm
I have found the charging station! (Did you know various Walgreen’s stores have them?) Actually using the charging station is a little bit more difficult; it’s on the ChargePoint network, which means that to use it you need their little magnetic card. I don’t have their little magnetic card. I do have internet on my phone, which eventually gives me a number to call for support. Public charging stations, apparently, are not entirely user-friendly (yet, although I have hope for the future).
The ChargePoint people will unlock the station remotely, but you have to give them your credit card information (all the numbers plus the billing address, and inexplicably also your email address) over the phone to get them to do it. I’m not sure I’m happy about this; on the up side, I’m using a debit card that expires this month, so the amount of damage that can be done with it is limited.
On the plus side, I get to park in the spot that says “Electric Vehicle Parking Only” and am seeing how the i-MiEV does with Level 2 charging!
Day Four, 6:16pm
I’ve got 3/4 of a “tank.” The i-MiEV and the public charger got on very well.
Day Four, 8:08pm
Ending the driving part of the night on a slight down note – visibility is great for the most part, but the C pillar is huge. This doesn’t really matter as much with the driver’s side, but it does lead to a surprising blind spot on the passenger side, and I totally (and accidentally) cut someone off. Oops.
Tomorrow we test the i-MiEV on the interstate.