Goodbye, Mitsubishi i-MiEV — You Were My First

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Mitsubishi i MiEVThe Mitsubishi i-MiEV is no longer being sold in the US. The electric car first mass-produced and sold to the open public in the country — yes, even before the Nissan LEAF — is retiring after almost a decade running.

Quirky, Unique Mitsubishi i-MiEV

There probably hasn’t been another small EV that elicits so much passion. Love or hate the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the little bugger was the first electric experience for many and opened a world of new possibilities. And perhaps personally it holds a certain sentimental value, as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV in its dashing raspberry color was my first EV review, just after it was released in 2009.

In my initial test drive, the little EV drew many smiles and “How cute!” comments from people. At least, more so than my 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider. Is it the Manga-inspired fascia? Is it the overall dimensions? Is it both of those things and/or something else?

Mitsubishi i MiEV

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Technically Speaking

OK, so it was no highway warrior or weekend canyon carver, but it sure was and is a very efficient little car in which to dash around town. Its modest 66 HP at 3000 rpm and 145 lb-ft of torque, powered by its 80 amp-hour battery pack, moves its 2579 pounds to achieve an impressive level of efficiency. The fuel economy is 121/102 MPGe (city/highway), according to the EPA. A perfect first-time car and everyday efficient transportation vehicle, it’s also more spacious inside than you might think and offers a wealth of headroom.

The i-MiEV started its life back in the ’80s when Swatch CEO Nicolas G. Hayek decided the company should also have a car. The Smart Car was born, but it didn’t last too long before Swatch turned to partners for production and deliveries. Although most carmakers didn’t see the appeal of a European iCar and turned their nose to it, Daimler saw potential, observing that Japan and Asia had plenty running around its busy streets.

My first real EV test drive — in the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

But the Smart Car is a two-door model and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV has four. The Smart Car’s bigger brother is the four-door version, sold in Europe, that Mitsubishi uses for its i-MiEV. There is even a Roadster version of the Smart Car there, which looks like the perfect electric conversion for light fun around town. And at that time, Mitsubishi and Daimler were trying very hard to get along with Chrysler to work in a bigger group. Much as the last Chrysler–Daimler merger was dubious, this one didn’t work out too well either. When Daimler and Mitsubishi decided to part, each took a Smart Car — Daimler the two-door and Mitsubishi the four-door. How many of you knew that history?

Goodbye, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Your US Expectations

Mitsubishi i MiEVIndeed, sales have disappointed Mitsubishi. Despite successful races based on the i-MiEV platform, the car itself never sold as much as the company had hoped for. But landing the fault on the quirky i-MiEV and its love-it-or-hate-it looks for its okay performance doesn’t capture the entire picture. Mitsubishi has been going through a rough couple of decades. It sought various help and alliances with limited success before getting gobbled up by Nissan.

The i-MiEV was an oddity since Mitsubishi was more known for its outrageous Lancer Evolution, which turned a mild-mannered sedan into a road-going monster. Regarding the Lancer Evolution, a fun one that was, and there have been plenty of talks about how much fun it would be to have a PHEV version of this model. It’s a shame it never was because a powerful PHEV and EV is exactly what the public needs to keep moving away from so many constantly rehashed and debunked EV myths.

Final Thoughts

Some products and services don’t shine as bright as their potential. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV might not have been an EV poster child, but it was the first of this generation and showed the way forward for some of today’s other models.

In the end, current owners understand what they have and are satisfied leaving others to argue moot and arcane points. It’s now time to say goodbye to new Mitsubishi i-MiEVs, at least for the US, as all units have been sold. However, you can still find them on the used car market, and there are some great deals out there.

Next, stay tuned for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. We’ve been waiting a long time for this car in the US. Will it finally arrive?

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Nicolas Zart

Nicolas was born and raised around classic cars of the 1920s, but it wasn't until he drove an AC Propulsion eBox and a Tesla Roadster that the light went on. Ever since he has produced green mobility content on various CleanTech outlets since 2007 and found his home on CleanTechnica. He grew up in an international environment and his communication passion led to cover electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, renewable energy, test drives, podcasts, shoot pictures, and film for various international outlets in print and online. Nicolas offers an in-depth look at the e-mobility world through interviews and the many contacts he has forged in those industries. His favorite taglines are: "There are more solutions than obstacles." and "Yesterday's Future Now"

Nicolas Zart has 572 posts and counting. See all posts by Nicolas Zart