Mitsubishi has been showing
a number of electric cars at auto shows starting in Tokyo back in
2005, they didnít show the most recent iteration, the one that will
be the production version, until the 2007 Frankfurt Auto show.
The i-MiEV is based on Mitsubishiís i line of micro-cars which are
quite popular in Japan. The four door i-Miev is only 11ft 1inches,
4ft 10inches wide, and 5ft 3inches tall but feels much roomier
The car is powered by a 330V 16KWh Li Ion battery pack from GS Yuasa
Corporation which drives a 47KW Permanent magnet synchronous motor
that produces 133 foot pounds of torque. This gives the i-MiEV a top
speed of 80mph and a range of up to 100 miles in ideal conditions
but more like 70 miles in normal day to day driving.
The car also comes with two charging ports, one will accept either
110V for a charge time of around 12 hrs, or 220V for a charge time
of around 6 hours. The second port is for fast charging and can be
connected to a 50KW charger that will bring the car from 0 to 80% in
thirty minutes. The second charger was added to allow people such as
apartment owners, who donít normally have access to a plug in their
parking area, or who have to park on the street, be able to get a
charge at charging stations set up at places like shopping centers
and convenience stores.
Inside the car looks like a standard i-car but the gauges have very
different meanings. The speedometer is a digital read-out in the
center of the console which is dominated by a large analog dial that
shows the direction of flow of electrons, moving to the right when
charge is pulled from the batteries and moving to the left as the
batteries charge via the regenerative braking system.
The drive selector is a standard gearshift that allows Park,
Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Eco and Brake. In drive the full power of
the batteries is available to give the car plenty of go off the
line. In Eco (economy) the motor output is limited to about 45bhp
reducing the current flow from the batteries and extending range. In
Brake the regenerative braking system is dialed up to simulate
Driving the i-MiEV is as simple as putting your foot on the brake,
popping the shift into drive or economy, then pressing the
accelerator. The car takes of with very smooth acceleration and is
peppy enough to keep up with traffic even in down-town LA.
The biggest thing you notice about the car is how quite it is. There
is no whine from the motor like you get with most electric vehicles,
and even the noise from wind and tires on the road is minimal. The
car also rides very comfortably on the bumpy roads around LA. The
steering is light but precise.
The regenerative braking on the car is an absolute joy. Regen is
integrated into the system by way of the accelerator not just the
brake pedal. When you take your foot off the accelerator mild regen
slows the car gradually, the same way you would expect a gas car to
react. Pressing the brake pedal increases regenerative braking
smoothly slowing the car.
When driving down a steep hill, the shift can be moved into brake
mode and the carís speed will be held down just like if you had
downshifted in a gas car. The main difference is that in the i-MiEV
the recaptured energy is fed back into the batteries.
Mitsubishi recently delivered 4 i-MiEV to Southern California Edison
who are putting the car thorough its paces in their fleet. The cars
are also being fleet tested in Japan.
The i-MiEV isnít just a science project either. Mitsubishi plans on
building around 2000 of them in 2009 for use in fleet applications
in Japan. Word has it that Mitsubishi UK has also requested a
portion of these vehicles, all of which will be right hand drive,
for sale in the UK.
Mitsubishi have had a web site available at
http://www.mitsubishi-cars.co.uk/i-ev/register.asp for UK
residents to register interest in the i-MiEV and response has
reportedly been very strong. The car is expected to go on sale to
the general public in both the UK and Japan in 2010, and Mitsubishi
are also considering sales in other EU countries.
The car was shown at the 2008 LA auto show, and Mitsubishi were
evaluating response to the car as part of their decision on bringing
the car to the US. I certainly hope that they do bring the car here
because this is one of the best electric vehicles that I have driven
and I am sure that if the price is reasonable that Mitsubishi could
sell a lot of them.