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Mitsubishi i-Miev preview drive (photos)

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.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
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.
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2 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
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.
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3 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
Although its external dimensions are small, the cabin feels roomy because of the high roofline. The car is also narrower than most U.S. cars, making it very maneuverable on urban streets.
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4 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
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.
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5 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
The 15-inch wheels seem small, and are also narrow, but offer little rolling resistance, helping range. It uses disc brakes on the front wheels, and drum brakes at the rear.
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6 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
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.
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7 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
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.
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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.
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9 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
After about 55 miles of driving at 60 to 65 mph on the freeway, the instrument panel showed only two bars on the battery meter and a range of 7 kilometers.
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10 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
Eaton's rapid recharge station, shown here at Vacaville's electric vehicle recharging lot, can run the i-Miev's battery up to an 80 percent charge in about 25 minutes.
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11 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
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.
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Eaton's rapid charger showed this rough display, indicating the car's state of charge. This data comes through the J1772 plug, something a gasoline station cannot show.
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13 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
These two pedestals are potential designs Eaton showed off for its rapid recharger. Chargers like these may dot the parking lots of the future.
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14 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
After our recharge stop, the i-Miev fleet is lined up and ready to travel the next 30 miles to Sacramento.

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