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First Drive: 2012 Mitsubishi i


Many years ago MITSUBISHI I visited my wealthy cousin Sheldon in Montreal. He'd just purchased an $18 million jet. Hey, MITSUBISHI I said he was wealthy. Being a good socialist college student, MITSUBISHI I said something to the effect of, "Shelly, you bourgeoisie pig, why in the hell would you spend $18 million on a jet?!?" He smiled and said, "Jonny, remember when you were a kid and you learned to ride a bike and suddenly your world was this big?" He set his hands about six inches apart. "Then you got your drivers license and suddenly your world became this big?" he said as his hands went shoulder-width apart. "Well, MITSUBISHI I can fly from New York to Honolulu on one tank of gas." Sheldon spread his arms out all the way. "My world is now this big." MITSUBISHI I mention this fond childhood memory because for you electric car early adopters, your world's about to shrink.

After years of speculation, Mitsubishi Is finally bringing over an electrified, U.S.-spec version of its A-segment car, and they're calling it the i. Well, they're actually calling it the Mitsubishi I powered by MiEV (pronounced "meeve," not "me-ev"), and no, they wouldn't comment on whether they and Bmw have started suing each other. (BMW is launching both an i3 and an i8.) The MITSUBISHI I has a 16 kW-h lithium-ion battery pack, exactly the same as the Chevrolet Volt. But since the Mitsu is much lighter (2595 pounds compared to the Chevy's 3729) and less powerful (the i's motor makes 66 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque compared to the Volt's 149 electric ponies and 273 combined pound-feet of twisting force), the cute little MITSUBISHI I can go farther on a charge. The EPA says 62 miles combined, and 98 miles in the city. Unlike the Volt, once you're out of juice, there isn't a tiny little engine that kicks on to get you home. Out means out. It is, however, very efficient, with the EPA sticker reading 112 MPGe combined -- 126 city and 99 highway -- making the MITSUBISHI I the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can buy.

 The standard MITSUBISHI I takes 22.5 hours to charge on 110 volts (i.e. your wall socket), yet only 6 hours to charge on a 220-volt socket. Of course the 220-volt Eaton home charger costs extra ($700 to $800), but since 22.5 hours is such an absurd amount of time, Mitsubishi would be better off just bundling the charger into the sticker price. Speaking of the price, it's $27,990 excluding destination, making this the least-expensive electric vehicle you can purchase. Don't forget the $7500 federal tax credit, which drops the price to $20,490. If you happen to live in a state that's pro green cars, you can lop off an additional $4500 to $5000. So, not counting the charger or destination, you could get a brand-new electric car for less than $16,000. A pretty compelling argument, especially if you're one of them early adopter-on-a-budget types.

Now, if you have another $2700 to spend, you can get a second plug that can handle plugging into the high-powered 440-volt quick chargers that gets your battery back to 80-percent juiced in just 30 minutes. Oddly, Mitsubishi never mentioned how long a 100-percent charge would take -- even though MITSUBISHI I asked twice -- but figure about 45 minutes. You'd be nuts to not spend the extra cash and get the 440-volt plug. The 62-mile range is sub-optimal to the point of being almost unusable. The only way MITSUBISHI I can see the MITSUBISHI I making sense is with the quick-charging capability. Sure, there will be a niche of customers for whom 62 miles is more than they'll ever need. Then there's everybody else in the United States of America. So where are these quick chargers? Mitsubishi hasn't said exactly where, or how many quick chargers are being installed, but they should be set up before the MITSUBISHI I gets to dealer lots starting in California this November. Full nationwide rollout will be complete by December 2012.

 The U.S. spec-version vehicle is different than the Japanese i-MiEV and the European model. Naturally, it's bigger in every way: 4 inches wider and 8 inches longer than the EU car, 11 inches longer than the Japanese version. Bumpers account for extra length, and to achieve the additional 4 inches, Mitsubishi simply sliced the MITSUBISHI I in half and welded in the extra girth. Our car is also fatter, at 148 pounds more than the European car, 170 more than the JDM product. We get more torque than the rest of the world -- about 10 lb-ft extra. We also (mercifully) get wider seats than the rest of the world. MITSUBISHI I know this last part because at the Mitsubishi test track outside Nagoya, Japan, we were handed the keys to all three versions of the i. Sadly, because of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster, we didn't get to drive a full U.S.-spec version or even a pre-production car. Instead we played with engineering mules.

(Source)


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