Mitsubishi i Test Drive – Best Electric Car starting at $29,125

Mitsubishi i Test Drive – Best Electric Car starting at $29,125

Mitsubishi iMiEVBy John Addison (update 10/31/11; original 3/28/11)


Sales Start for New Mitsubishi Electric City Car

I have been driving this Mitsubishi i-MiEV all over Monterey, California, once described by John Steinbeck as “a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” Surf pounds on rocky shores, light streams through eucalypts forest, and this city electric car performs.

Globally, Mitsubishi has sold over 5,000 electric city cars. I can see why as I drive the European version of the car that will be 5-inches wider and can now be reserved starting at $29,125. I glide in stealth mode in city stop-go traffic. I accelerate around a slow poke faster than in the Think EV. When I turn, the stability is solid.

I saw enough police cars that I did not risk testing the car at its speed limit of 80. The Mitsubishi I does not enter the freeway as fast as when I took the Chevy Volt on the same onramp, but acceleration is fine.

I escape traffic to enjoy driving through windy roads with sharp downhill turns. The Mitsubishi EV continues to handle well. Finally I test this city electric climbing a 16 percent grade. If you live in Orlando or Dallas, serious hill climbing may not be a factor, but if you live in San Francisco or Boulder it should be part of your test drive. This Mitsubishi with its 46kW electric motor climbed the steep hill with ease. The U.S. version will have 49 kW motor. By contrast, the version-1 Smart ED with its 16kW motor struggled up hills; version 3, available in late 2012, will have a motor that matches Mitsubishi’s.

Parking in tight spots is great for both the Mitsubishi i and the Smart ED. These micro compact city-cars have tight turning radii and can squeeze in neglected parking spaces, saving drives $20, $30, and even $50 per day. Parallel parking was a breeze. Just nose in, turn off the car, and walk away. The Mitsubishi i saves a fortune at the pump. I guarantee that you will never put a drop of gasoline in this pure battery-electric car.

Best Electric Car price

The Mitsubishi i can now be reserved started at $29,125. After federal and state tax incentives, a buyer could drive this city electric car away for under $20,000. The base ES model includes Level 2 charging; the SE model with the Premium Package also includes the CHADEMO DC Fast Charging port. Reservations have started in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. You are likely to wait until 2013 in other states.

The official name for the U.S. version is the 2012 Mitsubishi i (small “i”), Powered by MiEV Technology. Because this 4-seat city car weighs only 2,595 pounds, 755 pounds less than the larger Nissan LEAF, the Mitsubishi i only needs a 16 kWh lithium battery pack; the LEAF needs 24kWh. This gives Mitsubishi a major cost advantage, starting at $6,000 less than the 2012 Nissan LEAF.

Many drivers will prefer to pay more for a Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Volt, or other larger electric hatchbacks whose back seats can lower to give for more cargo space than the Mitsubishi i. Some expressway drivers will feel saver in the larger cars, but this Mitsubishi i received a 4-star rating in stringent crash testing performed by Euro NCAP, a multinational vehicle safety-testing consortium in Europe.

Electric Car Price Competition

For battery-electric car buyers who need to save thousands in parking fees and maneuver through challenging city traffic, I would recommend the Mitsubishi i over the Smart ED, the Think, and other city electric cars. For buyers who need more cargo space and prefer a larger car, I would recommend driving the Nissan LEAF and Ford Focus Electric. For those who want the extended range of a plug-in hybrid, test the Chevrolet Volt and other top electric cars.

Compacts like the LEAF are the most popular size for first time buyers who are watching their budget, yet want at least four doors, at least four seats, safety, a sporty feel, and electronic entertainment. The smaller Mitsubishi i is a micro-compact city car that squeezes in four people and some cargo. Yet my test drive of both shows that the Mitsubishi has the performance and handling of the LEAF. Both safely accelerate to freeway speeds. The LEAF has an EPA adjusted range of 73 miles electric range; the Mitsubishi i is at 62 miles. Both have Eco modes and invite 100 mile-plus range with careful driving at speeds below 50 mph.

In 2012, however, the big competition for the below $30,000 electric cars may come from the Honda Fit EV, the Ford Focus Electric, the Smart ED, and Toyota’s new Scion electric city car. 2012 will the year of the electric car battle for market share. If oil prices stay above $100 per barrel, then electric cars and plug-in hybrids may be adopted faster than the original Prius hybrid.

In the U.S., Mitsubishi is partnering with Eaton to offer charging units (EVSE). Eaton offers a 220v, J1772 charger, and a larger EV Quick Charger currently based on the TEPCO fast charger popular in Japan. These chargers will be available through Best Buys which has been testing the i-MiEV in Geek Squads. Eaton, a long time supplier of distribution equipment to electric utilities, is becoming a major force in many areas of smart grid and smart charging. You can also charge the Mitsubishi with a slow charge with 110 volt and 8 amps. This Level 1 charge may be an alternative for city dwellers that live in apartments or condos where Level 2 charging is not available.

2012 Mitsubishi i, Powered by MiEV Technology Specifications

  • USA Dimensions (L x W x H) = 144.8 inch x 62.4 inch x 63.6 inch
  • Cargo Volume 13.0 cu. ft.
  • Max cargo Volume    50.0 cu. ft.
  • Passenger volume     85.0 cu ft.
  • Turning Radius         15.4 ft.
  • Vehicle Weight = 2,595 lb
  • Maximum Speed = 80 mph
  • Electric Range 62 miles EPA
  • Charge Time
    • 6 to 7 hours with J1772 (220v / 15 amp)
    • 20 hours (110v / 8 amps)
    • 80% in 30 min (2012 = 18 min) with Fast Charger ( 200v / 50kW TEPCO)
  • Motor = 64 hp (49kW) Permanent Magnet Synchronous
  • Torque 133 lb-ft
  • 8,500 rpm
  • Lithium Batteries = 16 kWh with 88 cells made by Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture company of GS Yuasa and Mitsubishi
  • Warranty
    • Lithium battery pack 8 years, 100,000 miles
    • Electric powertrain 5 years, 60,000 miles
    • Vehicle 3 years, 36,000 miles limited

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