Driven: Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Don Sherman

What's Under the Covers
Like the gasoline-powered Mitsubishi i-car upon which this pure electric is based, the propulsion hardware is located just ahead of the rear axle -- as in the standard 'mid-engine' format. There is a 63-hp permanent-magnet AC motor driving the 15-inch rear wheels through a single-speed final-drive unit. The battery pack consists of 88 lithium-ion cells wired in series (22 modules with 4 cells per module) to provide 330 volts of power and 16kWh of stored energy. The prismatic cells are made by Lithium Energy Japan, a 3-year-old joint venture between Mitsubishi and GS Yuasa.

A single power cord plugs into a connector located on the right-rear flank to recharge the batteries with your choice of 110 or 220-volt power. While Mitsubishi claims that a discharged battery can be topped off in 7 hours with 220-volt power, we found that optimistic by several hours. The claim with 110 volts is 14 hours. The wise owner will plug into 220 volts immediately after completing the daily commute. A flap on the left flank of the vehicle provides another electrical port to be used with quick-charge stations capable of reviving a battery pack to 80-percent charge in only 20 minutes.

Whot'll She Do?
Following a careful, complete charge of the batteries, we conducted a mix of suburban and highway driving to obtain an accurate idea of the i-MiEV's range. A log of speed, time, and distance was recorded during a 72-mile trip. A total of 38 miles were driven at an average of 63 mph (not including accelerating to speed or coasting to exit the freeway). The remaining 34 miles averaged 26 mph. While the turtle warning light never flashed, we rolled into our home-base garage with zero bars illuminated in the state-of-charge gauge and an ominous flashing gas-pump symbol. The bottom line: plan on about 70 miles of mixed city-highway driving or several miles more if operation is restricted to low-speed urban situations.

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