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Car Tech Video: Mitsubishi iMiev
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Car Tech Video: Mitsubishi iMiev

6:57 /

Mitsubishi does its part to make electric cars real.

-It's chick's look full of acorns. It's belly full of lithium and it's on track to hit you at showrooms late in 2011. This Mitsubishi is more proof than electric cars are here or finally back depending how bitter you are about GM's EV1. Anyway, let's get in the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and check the tech. Let's walk the architecture of our chubby, chick little friend and it all starts back here in the engine room. That's where pretty much everything lives on this car. Underneath this cover, we find the guts of what makes an EV run. First, we have an ECU, an electronic control unit, that runs all kinds of things from power output to the use of power for heater or air-conditioner, regeneration of power when you're coasting or breaking, very important box. You've also got an inverter, takes the DC power that comes out of a battery, turns it into the AC power that the motor needs. That motor, by the way, is underneath here, a 330-volt motor rated at 63 horsepower and about 130 foot-pounds of torque. It's hooked up to a transmission but it doesn't change gears. It's a one-speed. It's a reduction box really. Now, where are the batteries? Those live around the side. Actually, the batteries are kind of invisible, part of the relative genius of Mitsubishi's packaging. What they have done is they've stuck them underneath the floor in the passenger compartment, so you don't see them and that's good. Now, how do you charge those batteries? Here's one way. This is the fast way. This is the quick charge port that would require a special quick charge device. That's gonna give you an 80% charge in just 30 minutes. But more likely, you're gonna charge on this side of the car where we have the lower voltage port. In here, you've got a hook-up for this charging gun that just clicks right into place and it goes to either a 110 connection or you can take off the adapter here and you've got a 220 plug. Here is the problem. You gotta pack a lunch using either of these: 14 hours for a full charge on 110, 7 on 220, but at least, you'll find them in a lot of places. Now, even taking this car home to charge up isn't problem-free. I had to try 3 different outlets to find one on a 15 amp circuit that had a light enough load that it wouldn't throw a breaker while the car was charging, and your garden variety, medium-duty extension cord, not a good idea. It only adds to the bottleneck of getting current into this thing. Carry a heavy-duty cord along with this car's fairly short one. -Inside the---- wooh. Okay. That's the first weird thing. This is a right hand drive car, Japan domestic market products. Another indication this guy is not ready for prime-time in the left hand driving part of the world yet. But inside the car, we have a modest amount of technology. This is not a cabin deck story folks. The radio will tell you that and I mean, radio. That's a good old 1980's era single-DIN AM/FM/CD. That isn't the point, although you can get a double-DIN LCD In-Dash Nav. At least that's what they envision for this car. Now, under the instrument panel, that's where this car gets really interesting. Left gauge, that's your charge, like a gas gauge and your gear indicator. We'll get to the gears in a minute. Now, the gear. In the middle, you've got your speed-o in kilometers in this case. Around it is a mode indicator with the dial. That needle will show when you're charging on the far left here. That's regen, either coasting or braking. Then you've got a little Eco band when you're driving very lightly, the way that it wants you to for best range. And then you got a big, old fat power area when you're really getting into it and tapping the kilowatts. On the right is a multi-function gauge. I usually kept it in the remaining range mode like you see there. Tells you how far you've got to go before you're calling a cab. Now, I have an issue between that and the other gauge which shows "Charge." They don't really agree. The charge gauge right now shows what, about 75% charge, but that range gauge only shows 59 kilometers which is about 50% of the possible range. So somewhere, these two were working on different algorithms. Now, under that gear lever, pretty common stuff until you get down the bottom of the game so park, reverse, neutral, drive; we all understand that. Then there's Eco. Then there's B. Here's how these work. Drive gives you access to the car's full power and standard regeneration profile when you're coasting or breaking. Eco gives you very limited power and aggressive regeneration. B gives you access to the power of D with the aggressive regen of Eco. It's how it kind of sorts out. -0 to 60? Yes. In about 13 or 14 seconds. Top speed around 80 miles per hour. Range, about 100 miles as they promised but after a full charge overnight, we only saw a max of 80 kilometers on the distance to dead gauge. -Okay. Let's go ahead and drive one of these guys. Well, the first thing you notice is the quiet and not just the quiet, but the overall lack of sound. You don't have the engine revving and running and vibrating. You don't have gearbox with its vibration and harshness. You also don't have the gear changes that are constantly giving you inputs as phases of the engine's operation change. All those things add up and you don't realize how distracting and how noisy in the broad sense a combustion car is. When that all goes away, the electric vehicle like this one feels very nimble, very speedy and very effortless. On the down side, I find them always second-guessing the way I'm using the car because I'm concerned about remaining state of charge. So, you drive in a very, shall we say, previous owner kind of way. which means you're doing good things for your range but not necessarily good things for traffic flow, you know. I also was driving earlier today. It was kind of cold but I didn't turn the heater on 'cause I know that takes electricity to heat the fluid that goes into the heater radiator. I said, "no, don't wanna risk it." You make friends everywhere you go in this i-MiEV I find partly because the car is cute. That chubby chipmunk look in the front is kind of a heart-melter. At the same time, people do think it's awfully small even though I don't think it's that small. It's a hell of a lot bigger than a Smart Fortwo, but it does print very sort of petite and it prints very narrow too. And generally speaking, aside from the power trade and the way that you behave to accommodate it, it's like driving, what, a Honda Fit. It feels like a very similar kind of car. Okay, let's price this little Mitsu i-MiEV as well as we can. I love right-hand drive. Born to be a male carrier. Okay. About $30,000 is the word, very roughly for arrival in maybe Q4 of 2011, a full year after. Let's see the Nissan Leaf. But if that is the price and if the $7500 tax credit from the Feds is still in place, we have a low $20,000 car here that is simply fun to drive and gets a great public reaction. Folks think it's really cute, wanna scoop it up and take it home and give it a hot bath and a meal. If this is all true, Mitsubishi might have a hit on their hands.

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