Preparing for the official launch of the i-Miev electric car in the U.S., Mitsubishi let us spend some time with a Japanese market model. Using it as a city car, it proved perfectly adequate for driving around San Francisco.
Mitsubishi based its electric i-Miev on its i model, a small car it sells in Japan and intended as a city vehicle. Although it looks small by U.S. standards, the i is actually large for its city car segment. In electric form, lithium ion batteries power a motor that drives the rear wheels.
The i-Miev is narrower than most cars, making it a good fit for dense urban streets. It has room for four people and has a small cargo area. The high roof and large windows make for excellent visibility.
This particular car is a Japan market vehicle, and does not wholly represent the car that Mitsubishi will sell in the U.S. According to the company, its U.S. car will have a slightly wider track for added stability.
Under the small front hood sits cooling equipment and a big fuse box, along with some other electronic-control gear. The i-Miev's batteries are mounted in the floor, and the motor and power management equipment sit just in front of the rear wheels, underneath the rear passenger seat.
The i-Miev's 47-kilowatt electric motor powers the rear wheels, giving the car only 63 horsepower but 133 pound-feet of torque, an ample figure for this small car. That torque comes on immediately, making for quick starts.
With its 330-volt lithium ion battery pack, the i-Miev has a range of almost 100 miles. Using a 220-volt outlet, it takes about seven hours to fully recharge the car's batteries. By using a three-phase rapid charger, you can charge the batteries to 80 percent capacity in about 20 minutes.
As is obvious from the right-hand wheel placement, this is a Japanese market car. Mitsubishi operates a small fleet in the U.S. for testing and educational purposes. As such, this interior is nothing like what we will see in a car built for the U.S. market.
This simple instrument cluster shows battery level, range, how much electricity is being used, and speed. Driving around San Francisco, we noted that it does not regenerate when braking, but the power gauge did go into the charging area when we coasted.
We came up with some samples of electric car range for various cities. This circle represents points that are 40 miles away from downtown Los Angeles, which is approximately half the range of the Mitsubishi i-Miev.