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The experience of testing a Mitsubishi I for 4 days is a bit like getting to know someone, a date. As I slowly found out more about my partner in different settings, I was also able to observe reactions of family, friends and the people we met along the way. Some initially treated the vehicle with disdain while others saw a rock star.

Cars

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

The experience of testing a Mitsubishi I for 4 days is a bit like getting to know someone, a date. As I slowly found out more about my partner in different settings, I was also able to observe reactions of family, friends and the people we met along the way. Some initially treated the vehicle with disdain while others saw a rock star.

 
Another Reason to Buy an EV

After about 18.5 hours, I could see on the remote that the vehicle was showing a full charge, and I was off again. The schedule called for another photo shoot, then a visit to a small, working farm where they raise alpacas. First, there was the usual battery of questions about the vehicle. They seemed to search for a reason to hate electric vehicles. “This is a farm, can you tow with it?” (Answer, “Not every vehicle you have here is used for towing, but an electric vehicle is better adapted to providing the torque for towing. Sufficient energy to sustain the pull is the issue.”) And then, finally, “We wanted to put up solar panels on the barn but were told either we can build the system with a battery backup or a grid connection but not both. With all the storms in the area and so many people without power, it would be frustrating to have working solar panels and no electricity. We need an 18 kWh battery backup which would cost $20,000, about the price and battery capacity of the Mitsubishi i. Now you have sold me,” she said upon hearing that in Japan there was an optional system (an inverter) to give household power from the vehicle, a kind of household UPS.

On the Way Home

And then I was off by mid-Saturday afternoon, back to central NJ, just slightly North from where I initially picked up the vehicle. I chose to take Rt 130 North, a smaller road with a lower speed limit of 50 mph and a few traffic lights. I used the AC about ½ the time and arrived after just over 40 miles of travel with 6 bars left on the gauge. A lower speed and some regenerative braking helped to economize the electric charge.

No one was home. Ah! Ha! I plugged the vehicle in at around 6:30 pm. However, suspicious looks from the neighbor prompted me to introduce myself. They were a two-Prius family. “Honey, come look! This car is all-electric and doesn’t have an engine!” (Technically, the electric motor is an “engine” that converts electric “fuel” to motion.) The wife, the kids, and the dog all came for a look, a touch, (and a sniff). Then, there was the familiar battery of questions, but each time the tone is different. Here, they were absolutely thrilled to see the vehicle. But would it work for them?

The Longest Ride

After several visits, rides, discussions, another overnight, and I was set for the longest leg of the journey so far — 52 miles would take me back to NYC. I debated a slower route, but, for the first time, the “charge” light had gone out on the cord, indicating a full charge. It would be the highway.

On Staten Island, I hit some traffic. An electric car can be very efficient with stop and go traffic, while this driver is not so patient. “There must be a parallel route that would be faster,” I mused as I turned off listening to an NPR story about a woman with one arm that no one noticed. To my chagrin, I realized I had handicapped my normally good sense of location, but spied the central console and managed to bring up a map on this “SE” version of the MiEV, which led me back to the highway and traffic that seemed to be moving much better. (It is all a matter of perspective.) 2 hours later, at 9 pm, I was putting the vehicle on to charge, with two bars left.

The Last Day

Monday in NYC was my last day with the vehicle. In the morning, one person walking their dog saw the car charging and was almost moved to tears of excitement and joy at seeing an electric car. I looked again to make sure it was just a car and not a movie star. But, for some, it may represent the same thing: something almost beyond imagination, a dream or hope for the future.

I explained what the vehicle was and how it works to an 80-year-old neighbor (another grandfather), and he became one of the strongest instant EV advocates. “For someone like me who doesn’t go far, this vehicle is fine and it doesn’t use gas!” he would say to everyone. I am not sure he fully understood that I had traveled almost 200 miles in the vehicle across 2 states.

A special experience was a 350lb+ “light” friend who asked if he could drive the car. (No, sadly, I don’t have permission for that.) “Then let me sit in it,” he said. “Wow, it has a lot of room for a small car — only, if we are driving together, maybe we will have to lock elbows.” It reminded me of once flying to Nantucket with two similarly sized people in an even smaller plane. (“There does seem to be less room in the vehicle, but no, I already have a date.”)

However, most didn’t recognize it for what it is. Oddly, one of the responses I answered many, many times when I said it was an electic car was, “But it takes gas too, right?” “No, it is all electric,” but I might have said that it operated by saying some magic words. Was I joking? Was it even possible? How does that work? For someone who does not usually read CleanTechnica or other blogs, word is likely not reaching them. As of May, the “i” had only been sold 413 times in the US,… but far more overseas.

Range Anxiety?

The issue of “range anxiety” deserves a separate article that will incorporate my experiences here and as a response to another article. In brief, you can’t look under the hood and find it there as a manufacturing defect. There is not “range anxiety” next to where the missing gas tank should be…. There’s a saying I have often heard, that “it is a poor worker that blames their tools,” and this may hold something of a key into the human nature of “range anxiety.” Conversely, a “good worker” should know what to expect from their tools, and how they are best used. I had no problem traveling many miles over relatively long distances in NJ with a staged itinerary. However, on my last trip with the vehicle, I had 4 bars left and traveled to a talk I was to give about electric vehicles.

–> On to Page 3, and an almost tragic ending before the road not taken and the quick summary.

 

 
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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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