Mitsubishi’s electric proposition is really the only one so far that makes sense from a practical standpoint.
While the MINI E might be better in the looks and prestige department, the i MiEV will seat four adults comfortably (unlike the MINI E and Smart ED which seat just two) and, most importantly, drives just like a normal car.
The i MiEV, pronounced “meeve” is powered by an 88-cell lithium ion battery bolted to the underside of the car, giving it exactly the same interior space as the original petrol version.
UK customers will initially have to use the trickle charge through any standard household three-pin plug to power up their car, which will take six hours for an 80% charge from flat. The i MiEV has an 80-mile range when fully topped up.
The only real shortcoming with the i MiEV is its price. Mitsubishi hasn’t officially confirmed how much it will cost when it goes on sale in the UK in 2010, but estimates of up to £20,000 have been mentioned.
Mitsubishi puts this down to the poor exchange rate for the yen (the car is built in Japan). It will cost about £750 a month to lease, though Mitsubishi says the i-MiEV costs only 45 pence per 100 miles to run.
Mitsubishi is looking to sell its entire UK allocation of 200 units quickly and has already taken deposits at London dealers.
Behind the wheel
The i MiEV is eerily quiet when setting off, so much so that there’s a light on the dashboard to alert the driver that the car is ready to go. There are three main modes on the automative transmission: drive, eco and brake.
Drive mode is the default setting which is used for swift acceleration, overtaking and reaching 70mph, which is surprisingly easy.
Eco cuts the power from 47kW to 18kW for driving in the city centre and the battery automatically regenerates energy each time the driver’s foot is taken off the accelerator, but this comes at the cost of some subtle deceleration. The MINI E has a similar energy recovery system, but it’s far more jarring.
As a zero-emission four-seat car, the i MiEV is a remarkably user-friendly proposition. However, the low volume aspirations will keep the price high. Fleets will really want to make an eco-
statement to pay such a price for what is a limited vehicle.