I just spent the past 4 days zipping, at a moderate pace, around the Chicago city streets in the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. The i-MiEV is a 4 door little bug of a car. It is approximately the same size as the Mini Cooper, but feels in many ways more spacious. It is higher off the ground and has a large, by comparison, storage space in the rear. My 2 girls could easily sit in the trunk with their legs crossed, criss-cross-applesauce. And when we went grocery shopping, we easily fit 4 overstuffed bags of groceries in the trunk.
According to the EPA the i-MiEV gets 62 miles on a full charge, but in reality it all depends on how you drive. The person who drove this vehicle prior to me was getting 48 miles on a full charge. By the end of my first day driving the car I had 55 miles of charge remaining, meaning after a day of trekking around the city I had gained mileage. After plugging the vehicle in overnight, I had a full charge of 80 miles the next morning. I suspect the prior driver was doing lots of highway driving and using all the other energy expending aspects of the car. I think subconsciously I was trying to maximize my mileage, so conflicting agendas achieved conflicting results. My driving style in the city is generally the speed of traffic with as much coasting as i can get away with. I like to glide into stop lights that are red from a distance and ease my way into a stop sign. This style of driving is perfect for an EV/hybrid as all that coasting and any breaking is time spent charging. The one draw back is that when one removes their foot from the accelerator you feel the distinct loss of power. You can still coast for a bit, but initially there is a subtle halting jolt that also feels like a sudden change in pressure. As a motion sensitive person, I found I had a subtle headache at the end of the day due to all the pressure change, but by the third day of driving I had begun to acclimate.
The Green Mama Take-Away
For a city family of 4 with small children, I think this is a solidly viable EV option…
What's To Love?:
Because of the cars low weight, somewhere around 2200 lbs, the car doors were easy for my 5 year old daughter to open and close. Both my 5 and 2 1/2 year old children were able to climb into their booster and carseat respectively, and my 5 year old easily strapped herself in. They could reach their window controls and commenced to demonstrate this fabulous new skill of raising and lowering their windows. I noticed a childlock on the inside of the backseat doors, but did not test it out. I suspect this was strictly for the door closure, but might have included a window lock as I didn’t find one anywhere else.
The backseat comfortably holds 2 full-size carseats, but if adults are in the front, it would be a tight squeeze to have anybody of great stature in the back. My girls did not complain about legroom, but when my brother in law, a man of 5’10” sat in the passenger seat, he was only able to find a comfortable sitting position when his seat was all the way back, within about 7 inches of the backseat itself. I think anybody over the age of 20 might complain about the lack of legroom in this situation. But in our case, we were all quite comfortable. Given that I usually drive a 2 door Mini-Cooper, I loved having 4 doors, and not having to contort my body at all in order to strap my younger daughter in. I just popped my head in, buckled her carseat belt and we were off. No gymnastics required.
In large part the i-MiEV is a no frills glorified golf cart (this is not meant to be a pejorative), but was not quite as intuitive to use as I had hoped. It’s dashboard controls are simple and feel pretty stripped down. I attempted to turn on the heat at one-point, but couldn’t figure it out, so I stuck to the driver’s seat heater. This was comfortable for me, thankfully no other passengers complained about being cold. I also turned on the windshield defrost at one point and wasn’t quite sure if anything was happening. It turned out there was just mist on the windshield, quickly removed with the windshield wipers, cutting short my chance to test this feature. In order to check your mileage remaining, distance traveled, total mileage on the vehicle, and outdoor temperature you have to scroll through one tiny little circular screen. Since I was a bit obsessed with comparing my mileage covered versus my mileage used, and wanting to know the outdoor temperature, I found this feature a bit aggravating. I did really enjoy the speedometer breakdown showing you when you are in charge mode, eco mode and power mode. i spent most of my time in eco mode which i suspect meant i was getting the most distance for my energy used. While driving on city streets I didn’t have any particular concern about our lack of horsepower, but when I ramped onto lakeshore drive with my pedal to the metal I felt like the tortoise at the starting line as the hare shot off. Once I got up to speed I traveled comfortably at 58 mph, but when a gusty wind came off the lake I had a brief moment of panic, feeling like there was real potential for me to be blown into a passing vehicle in the adjacent lane.
I loved how light filled the car was, despite the lack of a sunroof, and the very clear sight lines given the largeness of the front and back windshields, and the ease with which i could electronically adjust the side view mirrors.