Last year, my home town – the City of Vancouver- purchased 13 Mitsubishi i-Miev vehicles for its municipal fleet. Makes sense; if you’re going to talk the talk about being the greenest city in the world, you’ve got to walk the walk, and this administration has apparently agreed to buy another 17 of the all-electric vehicles sometime this year.
I recently spent some time with an i-Miev and this is what I learned.
You can purchase one at any Canadian dealership now. Starting price is just a shade under $33,000 with various rebates in effect…..BC has a $5000 rebate. Power is supplied by a liquid-cooled all-synchronous electric motor that develops some 66 horsepower, and, more importantly,145 foot-pounds of torque. This last figure is higher than some comparable internal-combustion models. Battery pack is lithium-ion. Transmission is a single speed and you can choose between three settings: regular D, an Eco mode, and maximum regenerative braking B mode. In perfect driving conditions, with a light throttle foot, Mitsubishi is claiming a range of up to 155 kilometres on a single charge. This is unrealistic; if you use any of the accessories – heater, air conditioner, seat-warmers, etc – you can pretty much cut your driving in range in half. You can actually see the power supply gauge drop a bar or two when you activate the a/c. I spent my time driving around with absolutely no accessories turned on….not even the radio.
You can fully re-charge the i-Miev using a 110-volt household wall socket in about 22 hours, and there are also two quick-charge features; one utilizing 240 volts, the other Mitsubishi’s own Quick Charge connector port, which will give 80 per cent of full battery power in about 30 minutes. Here’s a neat feature: utilizing the key fob, you can remotely program the charging process. According to Mitsubishi, the battery pack will go for at least five years before it starts to degrade and it might even be possible to get 10 years out of it.
Inside, the i-Miev is surprisingly roomy, offering 2772 litres of total interior room and some 1430 litres of cargo room with the second row seats folded flat. Seating capacity is for four adults and there is plenty of head/leg room. No compromises here.
Lots of amenities too. Standard equipment includes a driver’s side seat warmer, air conditioning, power windows, keyless entry, and 50/50 folding rear seat. In every way, the i-Miev is a comfortable, nicely-equipped sub-compact and comfort level is on par with any of its rivals.
Thanks to its high torque level, the i-Miev easily keeps up with city traffic. This is not a lethargic golf cart and will cruise easily at highway speeds. Mitsubishi is claiming a top speed of around 130 km/h, and, according to Natural Resources Canada, it should cost around $450 a year in “fuel” costs.
Behind the wheel, the i-Miev is much like any other moderately-powered small car, only quieter. There is virtually no drivetrain noise….just a muted hum, and wind noise on the highway is minimal. In short, you don’t feel like you’re piloting some sort of freak show, with other drivers having to make allowances for your car’s shortcomings.
That said, if you drive normally, you’re going to eat up your battery power pretty quickly. For example, I drove from South Delta to the Vancouver Convention Centre (about 30 km each way) and went through virtually a full “tank” of juice in the process. In fact, were it not for the fact that I managed to get a charge downtown, it might have been touch and go coming back. And, as we all know, when you run out of power with an electric car, your problems are just starting.
The British Columbia provincial government recently announced that it’s going to invest in quick charge stations throughout the province in the near future. Until then, you must plug in whenever you get the chance, which can get tedious. The last thing you want to do when you get home after a frustrating commute is haul out the re-charge cable and plug in.
Not to mention having to take it out again before you can go anywhere.