GEORGE JETSON, YOUR CAR HAS ARRIVED
2012 Mitsubishi i-MIEV electric car
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, Apr 7, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story by Doug Stokes Photos by author and courtesy Mitsubishi The Egg and Eye One of the perks of this particular review stint (with Easter in the air) is being able to drive a car that looks not at all out of place in a bed of that plastic grass stuff. We hunt out bright, promising “Rasberry Metallic" with a prosaic dark brown interior. We book a weekend in the ovoid world of all-electric personal vehicular road transport. And this all means we’ll not be standing on the gas at any time during the next fourteen paragraphs.
Egg-shaped? Aren’t all pure electric (battery power only) cars sort of ovoid (and always quite narrow)? Aren’t they all required by federal law to have to that darn round door motif that just screams Car of the Future? (Use one or two of your own George Jetson allusions here please.) Yup, as you’ve likely observed from the accompanying photos, the new 2012 Mitsubishi i-MIEV is a snub-nose, four-door mini-car that (as the new definition makes it) is a plug-in. That means that this one is a pure storage battery electric that can only be refueled with electricity and that has no other type of power unit on board. We were plugged in to this one for a long weekend drive (Friday through Monday) and found out a whole lot about the state of the art.
The Price of Being a Pioneer First of all, we learned that being first into the future is expensive. Yeah, there are government incentives (which vary, depending on the state you live in) and then there’s the perk of being able to drive solo in the HOV lanes (most places) and then there’s the sticker price: $34,765.00 (as tested). You have read that correctly—a click south of 35K. For which investment you will, according to the window sticker, get 112MPGe or be using up 30kW hours per 100 miles of driving.
The Fine Print Regarding the above, there’s a ton of mumbo (and quite a bit of jumbo as well on) on this one’s window sticker. There’s all kinds of tiny-type rigamaroll and obtuse adjectival clauses of what only can be called eclectic car hype. The little note on the Monroney sticker (the MSRP label on the window) indicates that subcompact cars get between 10 and 112 MPGe (yes, the EPA says the i-MIEV has the highest-rating for fuel economy) and then, in bold letters it strongly proclaims: You save $9,850 in fuel costs over five years. Smaller (much smaller) letters directly below read: “compared to the average new vehicle.” Huh? What average new vehicle? No say. Well, such is the mystery of all-electrics … the lure is all in the heart, and the lore is of range-challenging drives of 70, 80, and (hold your breath) 85 miles on a single charge! (Editor’s note: all EPA new car stickers—including ones running on petro—now compare the subject vehicle to the ‘average’ new vehicle.) Now, I’m always up for challenging any car’s miles-to-empty meter, and have had great fun beating the numbers (knowing that a gas station would be somewhere in reach). However, with this all volts and no oats machine, I got pretty shaky with 32 miles showing on the countdown, with about 24 miles (at night) to drive before I made it to the barn (my home is a very old, former avocado grove farm house). I made it, even had the heater on and never got a low battery warning. But the dreaded range anxiety was palpable for me and that goes for all of the pure volts and amps machines, this one’s promise of something over 70 miles on a full charge notwithstanding.
Back to the Future Aside from the quietly humming powerplant, the overall driving impression of the MiEV SE is that of driving your standard econobox of, say, 1992. Not that there’s really anything wrong with that, except that it's 2012. Every item on and in this one seems to be giving up any vestige of modern plushness for weight, the seats, the doors, the hinges, every single component (inside and out) is light. Not unsafe, but far lighter (and way less up-to-date, accommodation-wise) than, say a standard $18,000 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer. Weight, racers have taught us, is the enemy. This is no race car. The handling only rates a nod, no wink. They’ve squeezed the tire size down very narrow to cut rolling and wind resistance, and there’s just nothing at all that engenders any sort of sporty corner-carving here. But wait, this is an electric car and the acceleration is pretty darn quick on a good charge. Remember all the torque in this 49KV AC motor is delivered directly and in full at zero revs. And, oh yeah, this thing also had the brakes of a sports car: Applying them not only slows the car, but sends a surge of electricity back (they call it regenerative) into the battery. My guess is that the brake wear will be very good here, the discs only barely heating up in hard use.
You know, maybe the real theme here is retro. Plain Jane accouterments, rear motor, rear-wheel drive, and a rear suspension system (deDion) that dates to 1894 (not a typo for 1994). The future is always a few steps behind and this car in many ways needs to be a throwback in order to get ahead. There’s a lot of compromise here. One of thing that one needs to do here is live in a temperate climate and be employed less than 20 miles from home (with the kid’s school and ballet/karate lesson on THAT side of that commute). Having a 240v outlet in the old carport is also a very good idea because it takes 7 hours at that voltage to fully recharge this machine. Everything in life requires some compromise. Here we met some new versions, that’s all. I sort of liked driving this one, it was sort of fun, people looked at me (er, it) especially when I parked it right downtown on a Saturday morning in Sierra Madre. In fact, I liked it well enough to give our readers their choice of a final paragraph for this review. Here they are:
(A) You are here invited to pay your money and take your choice because this one is as silly or as serious as a blood-red, 600-horsepower, 11 or 12 miles-to-the-gallon Lamborghini Gallardo. You know that you need it, that your life is explained and augmented by it, and that you (for all intents and purposes) are what you drive; or (B) So what, if the payoff here is way out there somewhere written on the wind, waiting for 8 or 9-dollar gasoline to render this portable energy storage regime practical? This is the land of spirit and intent. I AM what I drive: cool, hot, funky, junky, clunky, fast, gigantic, minuscule, muscle-bound, or electro-eco-devolved. – Doug Stokes
SIDEBAR COMMENT There’s a notion that you buy an electric car because it’s economical. While you may save on fuel costs, going electric is like going twin-turbo, adding cylinders and dropping the top. There’s an exclusivity to it, and with it comes a certain something that you can’t get in the common car. With a muscle mobile, it’s about being pinned to the seatback with the pedal to the metal and the V8 roaring in the background. With an electric, it’s gliding through traffic in utter silence. It’s making like George Jetson while cruising down Main Street. And just like checking off the box for the High-Po option will cost ya, Option Electric ain’t free. In the case of the Mitsubishi i-MIEV, the base price is $29,125. Our test car stickered at $34,765 (nav, Fuse, camera, and a few other items). On the other hand, it’s $6,000 less than that other electric car (rhymes with Beef). And about 12 thousand less than the one with the back-up gas motor. With the $7,500 federal tax credit, you can get the i-car for $21,625. That makes it the least expensive electric you can buy in the USA. If you happen to live in Hawaii, they’ll kick in another $4,500 credit, bringing the net down to $17,125 (check your state for any credits that might apply). Of course, who knows how long these tax credits will be around. If you’re ready to be a pioneer and want to make like George Jetson, now may be the time to do it. – Roy Nakano SUMMARY JUDGMENT: Retro-futurism is here. Going electric comes at a cost, but Mitsubishi offers the cheapest, most fuel-efficient ticket on the E-ride. For more information about Mitsubishi products, go to mitsubishicars.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2012 Mitsubishi i-MIEV electric car Price: $29,125, base ($21,625 with Federal tax credit) $34,765, as tested, with Premium Package ($26,265 with Federal tax credit) Premium Package includes 40GB HDD navigation with music server and real-time traffic/RDS, Fuse handsfree link system with USB port, steering wheel audio controls, quick charge port, rearview camera system, battery warming system, and heated sideview mirrors. EPA fuel economy rating (MPG equivalent): 126 city/99 highway/112 combined Powerplant: 49KW AC synchronous motor Transmission: 1-speed Drive-configuration: Rear-wheel drive Suspension: MacPherson strut front independent suspension with stabilizer bar deDion three-link rear suspension Brakes: Front ventilated disc and rear drum brakes , with regenerative brake power system, 4-wheel Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Brake override system Wheels and tires: 15-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers and 175/60R15 81H all-season tires Dimensions Width: 62.4 inches Height: 63.6 inches Length: 144.8 inches Curb weight: 2579 pounds