2012 i-MiEV New Car Test Drive
The 2012 Mitsubishi i Electric Vehicle was designed to allow a driving experience not much different from that of a regular car. The Mitsubishi i is an all-electric car, so there's no reason to stop at a gas station. Instead, you plug it into an outlet to charge it.
After spending a week in one, we found the Mitsubishi i Electric Vehicle doesn't function in any way that's significantly different from a conventional car, other than the distance you can travel before having to recharge the batteries. Its range between charges is 62 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA rated the Mitsubishi i the most fuel efficient vehicle in 2012.
Starting at $29,125, the Mitsubishi i Electric Vehicle, also known as the MiEV, is the least expensive electric car from a major manufacturer. By comparison, the Nissan Leaf retails for $32,780, but it comes standard with navigation. The Leaf SL with a quick charge port, upgraded upholstery and other features lists for $33,720. A similarly equipped Mitsubishi i SE with the Premium Package retails for $33,915. Federal tax credits of up to $7,500 are available for buyers of electric vehicles such as the Mitsubishi i, and some states offer credits.
To start the Mitsubishi i, you insert a key into the steering wheel stalk as with a conventional car. Since it's only got electric power, you have to remind yourself, as we did, that there's no engine noise to listen for. Instead, you look for a Ready indicator light to be illuminated within the instrument panel. You also want to look for a number amongst the instrument panel's LED gauges, that being the one farthest to the right. It gives you one number and it's the miles left before you have entirely depleted the lithium-ion battery pack.
A 16 kW electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack will take you a distance of up to 62 miles when fully charged, according to the EPA. There's a line-graph style gauge that shows the charge similar to a thermometer's setting. When you use the defroster or air-conditioning, it affects the range.
The MiEV, for Mitsubishi i Electric Vehicle, comes with a remote device that allows communication with the various vehicle functions. For example, the indicator will light up during charging of the batteries; it blinks when the manual charging is pressed. You can also set the climate control (A/C, heater and defrost) remotely, actuating a pre-defroster mode and turning the air-conditioner off. It's just one example of the fact that this automobile requires that its owners become more involved with it than people have been with more conventional cars.
Charging has four elements, in any case: a charge port that is under a flap just like that for a gasoline-powered car; a charge connector; and finally, a charging source. Using a 110-volt outlet, estimated time for a complete charge, after the batteries have been exhausted, is about 22 hours. Using a 240-volt outlet reduces the charging time to about 6 hours. A quick charge, with a public charging station, is about 30 minutes for an 80 percent charge. (The 12-volt starter battery will be automatically charged, during the charging process for the main-drive lithium-ion battery pack.)
The shift lever can be set at one of three settings: D, for Drive, which allows 100 percent torque in response to the driver's foot on the accelerator; Eco, which reduces the rate of battery consumption to maximize range; and B, which increases regenerative braking (charging the batteries every time you set on the brake pedal).
Step off from a standing start and you've got full torque, 145 pound-feet, right away. It's what comes with driving an electric car. Acceleration feels brisk and no different than what you'd experience in any compact car. However, it reportedly takes 15 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph in the Mitsubishi i, making it one of the slowest cars available for sale in the U.S.
Take it onto the freeway, cruise at 60 miles-per-hour and the energy consumption rate is no different than cruising at lower speeds. It's very quiet, and the sound of air slipping by is the only noise you'll hear.
The 2012 Mitsubishi i comes in two trim levels. The Mitsubishi i ES ($29,125) comes standard with electric manual air conditioning with micron filter, electric compressor cabin heater, driver seat heater, on-board recharging system with 120-volt portable charging cable, four-speaker 100-watt AM/FM/CD audio with MP3/WMA playback, remote keyless entry, power locks, power Windows with driver's one-touch auto-down, variable intermittent windshield wipers, rear window defroster, auxiliary 12-volt DC power outlet, 50/50-split fold-down and reclining rear seats, four-passenger seating capacity, six-way manual adjustable driver's seat, four-way manual adjustable front-passenger's seat, driver visor vanity mirror, floor mats. The Quick Charge Package ($700) includes a Level 3 (CHAdeMO) DC quick charging port, battery warming system and heated sideview mirrors.
The Mitsubishi i SE ($31,125) gets upgraded seat material, an eight-speaker, 360-watt audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, two-tone instrument panel (brown/black), silver interior accents, door trim with cloth insert, 15-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlamps, fog lights, passenger vanity mirror. An SE Premium Package ($2,790) adds an HDD navigation system with rearview camera, FUSE Handsfree Link System with USB port, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and a Level 3 (CHAdeMO) DC quick charging port.
An optional Cold Zone Package ($150) includes a lithium-ion battery warming system and heated side mirrors. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Safety features include front airbags, driver and front-passenger seat-mounted side-impact air bags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact air bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupants, the mandated Tire Pressure Monitoring System, LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren), 3-point seatbelts for all seating positions. Active safety features include Active Stability Control (ASC) with Traction Control Logic, 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, brake override system. Also standard is a high-voltage cut-off system and the Approaching Vehicle Alert System for pedestrians.