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Published on July 29th, 2012 | by Breath on the Wind


A 200-Mile “Date” with a 2012 Mitsubishi i EV

July 29th, 2012 by  


Editor’s note: a Q&A with a Mitsubishi i and electric vehicle expert on Facebook about this vehicle will soon be hosted on the CleanTechnica Facebook timeline. Keep your eye out for that announcement!

The Mitsubishi i electric vehicle has been anticipated, discussed, driven, featured in many CleanTechnica articles, and even raced, but there are probably as many ways to view the experience of a test drive as there are drivers. Yet, common, to the point of cliché, are the expressions: “It drives like a normal car,” and “It doesn’t drive like a golf cart.” Confident in my own unusual perspective, I announced, to mixed receptions, that being with the car for almost 4 days was a bit like going on a date.

“Grandmother’s house we go…”

Concurrently, I am using this “media drive” to test the myth that you can’t go to “grandmother’s house” with an electric car. The most famous trip to grandmother’s house was probably less than 10 miles and was popularized in a well known song. To grandmother’s, or whatever weekend trip you might take, may be less than 60 miles away. The Mitsubishi i has an EPA range of 62 miles, and a very excellent MPGe of 126 in the city and 99 on the highway (30 kWh / 100 miles). Seeing that if I picked up the car in central NJ, rather than having it delivered to NYC, I would be able to drive further, I took the electrified East Coast Train to New Brunswick and by the end of the day was about 90 miles outside of NYC.

A Date?

People can have different goals on a date, but here I am pondering the experience of getting to know someone. My mechanical partner on this trip was a Raspberry Mitsubishi i, special edition (SE.) Take a few minutes to look through the photos of the trip. Expand them for a better look, but most of the wording is repeated in the text that follows:

Driving the Car

It was a very hot day and we jumped in the vehicle to turn on the AC. The handler, who gave me a quick lesson on operating the vehicle, was nervous with “The Plan.” “You know you have to charge this vehicle,” he panted, “you can’t just go to a gas station.” As if to distance himself from the insane, he kindly excused himself, saying, “I don’t want you to use up the battery.” The Mitsubishi i is one of only a handful of electric cars available in the US, and the only electric vehicle that this company delivers for media tests.

Undaunted, I drove South for almost an hour on the NJ turnpike in AC comfort, where the posted speed limit is 65 but traffic moves easily at 70 mph. Most electric vehicles could do more but have governors to limit the speed and maintain fuel economy. This one is set to 80 mph. The car kept up without any noticeable sign of strain. I once owned an MG midget that couldn’t do the same.

The “i” is a small car and the steering was responsive. The largest display on the dash was an analog indicator of charging or level of discharging. Flooring the accelerator would pin the dial on the power end. Accelerating would move it nicely in that area. But once any speed was reached, lightly touching the accelerator would maintain speed and move the dial into the “Eco” mode. Removing my foot would allow the vehicle to decelerate and the dial would move to charge mode. Battery electric cars have a reputation for being only “around town” cars. I was definitely operating outside the expected use, but was missing my usual “cruise control” for the open highway. At my first stop, after traveling over 35 miles of mostly highway speeds with the AC on, the initial 16 bars on the battery charge indicator had been reduced to 4.


“Shifting” the vehicle from “drive” to “economy” would make the accelerator less responsive (0 to 60 takes longer) and allow somewhat more regeneration when the foot was removed from the control. This effect is pushed even more with the shift control in “B (braking?).” So it is possible to downshift the vehicle when coming to a stop, and use engine braking as you might do with a manual shift car. Unlike its petrol counterpart, this downshifting is not only saving the brakes, but also charging the battery. This would play an important role in my last trip with the vehicle.

With only a single and fixed gear, “shifting” has nothing to do with a transmission, gears, or engine speed. It is an electronic switch that changes the nature of the accelerator control and regenerative braking. The feel is entirely different from a petrol vehicle. There is never any jarring with the MiEV. Everything is very smooth.

My Date with the Mitsubishi i

As I slowly found out more about my EV partner in different settings, I was also able to observe reactions of family, friends, and the people we met along the way. My first stop was the home of a storyteller who once regaled me with the feeling of the electrified trolleys he once traveled in across rural NJ as a boy. We had arrived at the “Grandfather’s house.” Sadly, the electric trolleys no longer exist. “We have gone backwards,” he complained with exasperation. But with some pride, he presently boasted, “Now I can say I have ridden in an electric car.” OK, the trip was worthwhile.

The Small Battery Solution

Electric vehicles can be made with large batteries. The new Tesla Model S caters to this demand, with batteries as large as 85 kWh. The big battery will be more costly to replace than a smaller battery. It will also take longer to charge and it is more weight to carry around (not to mention the cost and weight of a hybrid’s gasoline engine). Like astrophysicists looking for Earth-like planets, we need a Goldilocks solution. A battery that is not too big and not too small, but just right for the size of the vehicle and expected charging level. The Mitsubishi i has, at 16 kWh, a small battery, but it is enough for this road trip and most daily driving. More importantly, as there are almost no public charging stations in NJ, I can plug it into any 120-volt outlet (level 1 charging) and recharge the vehicle in a practical amount of time.

Bryan Arnett, Senior Manager, Product & Accessory Strategy for Mitsubishi North America had this to say about the “i”: The relationship between charge time and battery size is not a primary decision factor for me… Because charge time is most impacted by the amperage capacity of the On-Board Charger (OBC) system. For example, currently, the i-MiEV uses a 15A on-board AC-DC charger, which charges the 16kWh battery in about 7 hours… [at 240 volts]. If we increased amperage of OBC to a 30A system, the time to charge the same 16kWh battery pack would be reduced to about 3.5 hrs.

So I’m sure your next question is why did we not use a 30A system…. Reason is because it was felt that 7 hours charge cycle was acceptable for overnight charging and was the best cost versus value. For quicker charging during daytime use, we recommend the CHaDEMO commercial charger infrastructure, which can charge the battery to 80% in just 20-30 minutes. (See Page 3 for more on this.)

How Much Charge Time is Available?

I drove around a bit and finally put the vehicle on to charge at around 5:30 pm, with two bars remaining. Most vehicles sit for 23 hours a day. (12,000 mile average a year / 365 days = 33 miles / day = less than 1 hour driving.) If a vehicle is traveling for less than 1 hour a day, that potentially leaves 23 hours for charging. It takes only seconds to plug it in and the same to unplug it. I didn’t sit and watch the vehicle charge (and wasn’t forced to watch a propaganda screen at the pump), but spent the time visiting, resting, and preparing for the next trip.

With just a little planning, we can travel, stay, travel, stay, and enjoy a relaxing trip that is probably better for us than long periods of sitting in a vehicle. We clamor for longer ranges that we don’t always need, have limited use to us (again, we average less than one hour of driving a day), aren’t good for us in any event, and may not be as good for the vehicle, as higher charge levels also tend to shorten battery life. It is in our nature to always want more.

But a battery EV may not work for everyone. “He goes to work and then sometimes has to go to meetings across the state from there.” The EV can work well when the route is small or easily planned. Uncertainty, like flexibility, is a cost that must be paid at the pump.

Charging: Amps, Volts, and Watts

I was surprised that the provided cord contains 16 AWG (American Wire Guage) wire. Using NEC (national electrical code) standards, this is sufficient for continuous load of 8 amps. Charging the vehicle draws about 7.3 amps, varying slightly over the duration of the charge. (I have a lawnmower that draws 9 amps, and a car battery charger that draws 10 amps, and with these I use a 12 AWG extension cord good for 16 amps of continuous draw.)

7.3 amps at 120 volts is 876 watts. This is a bit like filling a swimming pool with a straw, as the 16 kWh battery will require at least (16000/876=) 18.27 hours. The car’s rated 21.5-hour charge time (using a 120-volt level 1 charge) is due to some small inefficiency of the on-board charger and a charging pattern that tapers the charge amperage at the end of the charge cycle. In most countries with 240 volt power, that same wire size would give (8 x 240 =) 1920 watts, and as the voltage is doubled, the charge time is reduced by half.  A portable aftermarket EVSE (electric vehicle service equipment) is available that will charge at a higher amperage and automatically switch from 120 to 240 as available for a very reasonable price, but it may not meet the fine print in the owner’s manual.

–> On to Page 2, where you will find another reason to buy an EV, a dog inspector and a large visitor.


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About the Author

We share this World; its past, present resources and our combined future. With every aspiration, the very molecules we use for life are passed to others through time and space so that each of us may be considered a Breath on the Wind. This part of the world’s consciousness lives in NYC; has worked in law, research, construction, engineering; has traveled, often drawn to Asia; writes on Energy and Electric Vehicle issues and looks forward to all your comments.
“If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.” — Benjamin Franklin

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  • Taisto Leinonen

    Thanks, Martin!
    As all houses in Finland, other Nordic countries and Northern Europe are supplied with standardized 230/400 V 3-phase service lines, we have been spared from the dilemma of considering EV car charging problems.
    As it appears that changing a voltage system is as impossible as getting the banking sharks under control, one way of modernizing the U.S.A. could be to put up via inverters the European standard voltage system for EV charging and, thus, gradually implement a change in the US system.
    Thinking positively, nothing is impossible. Just take the case when the Swedes changed from left-handed traffic to right-handed in 1967: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagen_H . The costs were not immense and the odd Swerdish convention was eliminated from the prospering group of Nordic countries.
    (All educated readers of this blog certainly remember that left-handed traffic relates to the ease of right-handed knight riding on the left side of the road and cutting heads off with a sword in the right hand. Unfortunately, Americans are stuck to the Edisonian history instead of following the teachings of Nicola Tesla.)
    Wishing all the best to EV and especially to Fisker-Karma that is being manufactured in Finland – and note, the fire problems are not related to Finnish quality of workmanship but instead, to the battery construction,
    Taisto Leinonen
    Helsinki, Finland

    • Thanks for the useful comments. Interesting history on which side of the road to drive on. 😀

  • Arnett’s comment regarding 30 Amp Level 2 vs. Level 3 charging is interesting.  Ford, of course, makes exactly the opposite point, eschewing CHAdeMO for now (along with GM they’re committed to the not quite ready CCS “standard”).  I think Ford’s likely to have the better end of this argument.  Arnett ignores the fact that CHAdeMO is optional, adding $700 to the price of his car, and CHAdeMO is almost nowhere to be found in the U.S. (the left coast being the notable exception, and even there it’s pretty thin for now).  The pricey Focus Electric, meanwhile, will be able to draw more current from ordinary Level 2 chargers at shopping centers and office parks, picking up twice the additional range in the same parking time as the LEAF or i-MiEV, making it far more effective at “opportunity charging” and so giving it more real-world daily driving range than its rivals as Level 2 charging infrastructure builds out.  I think the jury’s still out on just how widely available Level 3 charging is likely to be, especially given the competing formats.

  • Bob_Wallace

    “Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, who have done an amazing amount of green technology research in recent years, recently announced they’re developing a prototype “eco-routing” navigation system that could, under the right conditions, help drivers of vehicles like the Nissan Leaf increase their daily range by at least 10 percent. The system works by taking into account real-time traffic information, road type and grade, and passenger and cargo weight to help develop a routing algorithm that finds the route requiring the least amount of energy for a trip.”

    I’m sure that recharging opportunities would be built into the system as well.

  • Taisto Leinonen

    Isn’t it now obvious that the European 230/400 V 3-phase system is a necessity to cope with the electric vehicle invasion in U.S.A?
    No visually disturbing pole transformers, half of the copper weight in conductors and smoothly running 3-phase squirrel-cage motors in homes in any power range from 80 W to kilowatts.

    It is really awkward that the 3-phase system was invented and patented by Nicola Tesla in the U.S.A but was never adopted for residential use:

    Taisto Leinonen, M.Sc.(electronics)
    Helsinki, Finland
    ex Editor-in-Chief (Electronics News in Finland 1969-1975)

    • Breath on the Wind

      We can even look at the more advanced motors for electric vehicles and see that you are right.  The three phase AC motors are lighter, more efficient and more powerful (and don’t require permanent magnets.) 

      A three phase system would also be of some help using the EV as a household UPS through its Level III charging port. 

      However there is another argument that says this is what we have.  What is the best we can do with this?  While infrastructure is being built, a portable switching (120 or 240) EVSE.with some agreement on the final plug (Nema L6 -30 twist lock? with associated adaptors) could go a long way to bridging a gap.  Presently this would be considered an aftermarket purchase or a “Hack” of the supplied level I EVSE.  I will have another article to go into more detail on this shortly.  Please come back there.   

    • Bob_Wallace

      A necessity?  Not really.  The average US commute is less than 40 miles RT.  Folks who are using an EV for commuting will be fine with a US standard 120vac outlet.

      And US homes have 240vac available.  That’s what we use for electric stoves and clothes dryers.  It’s not expensive to add an outlet for the EV if one is an above average mileage driver.

      The range anxiety part of this article will be outdated once we have our system of rapid chargers up and going.  Even a few minutes at a Level 2 would brought our adventurer home w/o sweat stains.

      Would more be better?  Isn’t it often?

      • Breath on the Wind

         With the greatest respect Bob, I think it may be a mistake to focus on either the car or the charging equipment.  I included that section in the article, where I could easily have left it out, because it first illustrates the Mea Culpa in what has been called “range anxiety” and secondly because it partially suggests what could be done if you EV ride yourself into a seeming corner. 

        I wholeheartedly agree that for a 16 kWh battery vehicle a level I charge (120 v) could be adaquate, but a switching portable charger (EVSE) could be better.  The only level II chargers available in my area of NYC were at the many Nissan dealerships.  

    • Martin WINLOW

      For rapid charging (50kW+ DC), yes, but 3p is usually only found in business premises. Fortuantely, this is where you are most likely going to want to install a Level III charger. Is this not the case in the US?

      What is the G’ment doing in the US to install a national grid of L3 chargers? If it is the same as the UK – ie nothing – then they really need to put up or shut up. It’s no good banging the EV drum and spending $B’s on incentives to make EVs if there is no support infrastructure to go with it. Tesla says it is committed to installing such a grid but of its own system – and they are doing the same here in the UK too. Yet another ‘standard’. This really is a complete mess.

      Having been a daily EV driver for 3 years or so I don’t really see the difference in general terms between having to take 8 hours to charge or even 2. If you are on a trip then it needs to be a full charge in less than an hour and range needs to be a good 2 hours worth. Thus you can drive for 2 hours and rest for one (or less). This is a practical scenario, certainly for Europe, anyway. Tesla is currently the only production EV offering this. The batteries I had in my DIY converted van could take an 80% charge in 20 minutes (LiFePO4). Why can’t all these production EV’s do the same?
      There are alternatives. You could introduce a Motorail-type system where you load your car on a train (preferably electric) keep it plugged in on the way so it arrives fully charged and climate controlled. Or you could leave your EV at home and hire a car or swap with your friend/neighbour.
      It seems a shame that whilst billions will be spent in the US on diesel and petrol extracted from tar sands only to waste fully 80% of it due to the hopelessly inefficient internal combustion engine, ruining vast swathes of Canadian forrest for ever in the process, no money will be found to expand the US train electrification and expansion program, especially high speed ones that could easily compete with fossil-fuel burning jet aircraft and might tempt more people out of their cars for long trips.
      Or perhaps we should just bring back airships – but helium filled, 1/2 a mile long, built of composites and powered by a skin of thin film solar PV!

      • Bob_Wallace

        We are installing a number of Level 3 rapid chargers along our major travel routes in the US. Right now part of the system along Interstate 5 is in place. Within a year or so it should be possible to drive from Canada to Mexico by stopping for rapid charges.

        The ‘sweet spot’ for range, IMO, is about 175 miles. With <20 minute 90% charging (already being done) one could drive almost 500 miles with only two moderate breaks. Most gas-fueled drivers are going to stop that much for fuel and food.

        • martinwinlow

          Hi Bob, By ‘we’ I guess you mean the US not ‘your charger installation company’? If it is the former then, yes I had heard about that but it sounds (correct me if I’m wrong) like it is more politically motivated than a serious, properly funded, well-planned system. If I am wrong, who is behind it and do you have any useful links? How is Tesla’s HPCN going to fit in?

          Your ‘sweet spot’ is a bit high for the UK and, indeed, most of Europe where ‘long’ drives are probably only half as long. So, 120 miles between high speed charges (30 mins or so) would be all that we would need.

          But this is only half the story. For those in Europe without the ability to charge at home (probably the significant majority), there is a much more widespread, yet lower key – lower cost, infrastructure required. Just a simple weather-proof socket with GFI and the electricity cost charged at a flat rate included in the ‘EV’ parking ticket, perhaps. It’s needed at train station car parks, in multi story car parks ideally all car parking spaces, really, but then we are getting more expensive again ie inductive charging and L3 chargers at supermarkets etc.


          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, the ‘we’ is the US. I’m not in business of any sort (except as an index fund investor and real estate owner).

            Politically motivated? I don’t see that. Installing rapid chargers along travel routes is nothing different than how the government supports installing gas stations along new highways. When I5 (the interstate I discussed) was opened through the Central Valley area of California it ran away from existing towns, there were no places along to fill ones tank. The government subsidized gas stations every 35 miles (I think that was the distance) until business picked up enough to support the new stations. The government also funded rescue trucks which cruised the highway with tanks of gas for drivers who didn’t pay attention to “Next gas availability 35 mile” signs.

            Yes, I can see different sweet spots for different countries, even different parts of single countries. And routine charging infrastructure will have to be installed. (We had to build gas stations, ‘back then’.)
            What that infrastructure will look like is fun to speculate about. If wireless, induction charging pans out then we could see simple “charging bumps” in all sorts of places where people park – home, shopping, work, train station, streetside. RFID signals from the EV could signal the ‘bump’ to start/stop charging and tell it where to send the bill. The ‘bump’ could even signal the bobbies when someone not charging has parked in a charge-only spot.

            People in the most limited parking parts of cities – the historical towns of France, for example, might need to rely on L3 rapid charging. Pick up their weekly 150km/whatever as part of their weekly shopping routine. And then go home to park on the sidewalk….

      • Great points, thanks. Love the innovative thoughts at the end — good ideas for a tech/app startup 😀

      • Bob_Wallace

        This site –

        I set it to show only CHAdeMO (DC Quick) charge points (click on “all” to get options). It shows hundreds of quick charge points in the US.

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