To test out the electric-car future, Mitsubishi let us drive an i-Miev from San Francisco to Sacramento, an 85-mile journey that required a stop in Vacaville to get a recharge.
Mitsubishi puts its electric chariots on display, prior to an 85-mile road trip. Journalists from a number of automotive publications were invited on this drive, giving us a chance to see how the i-Miev performs in real-world, and less-than-optimal, conditions.
Based on Mitsubishi's i model Kei-class car, the i-Miev electric vehicle is just over 11 feet long. Kei-class cars are designed for dense urban environments, and the only class of car defined by its size. Although it seems small by U.S. standards, the Mitsubishi i is one of the larger Kei-class cars.
The i-Miev is pure electric, so needs no tailpipe. It gets a maximum 80-mile range from its lithium ion battery pack. Regenerative brakes help charge the battery while driving. It felt quite capable on city streets.
As these cars were built in Japan and leased to a few public and private companies, they are right-hand drive. For the official U.S. car, Mitsubishi will make a left-hand-drive model, and also promises more electronics in the cabin.
The shift lever doesn't need to be as large as it is, a legacy from the gas engine i car. The shifter merely controls the drive modes, as the actual transmission is just a single-reduction gear. Along with Park, Reverse, and Drive, there is also a B mode, which increased battery regeneration.
The i-Miev was not designed for California freeways, where speeds run from 55 to 70 mph. But the car proved capable of keeping up, although this style of driving taxed the batteries more than would have happened on city streets.
The i-Miev uses the SAE's J1772 standard plug for charging electric vehicles. This standard lets the car's computer communicate with the charger, telling it how much electricity to send in order to manage heat and extend battery life.