iMiev Sunset

Staff Car Report: Early 2010 Mitsubishi i-Miev Soldiering On After Four Years

Here at Transport Evolved, we like to practice what we preach. In fact, every regular contributor or staff writer also owns and drives some form of evolved car, be it electric, plug-in hybrid, or alternative fuel.

While the majority of us purchased our cars brand new however, conversion guru Kate Walton Elliott purchased her 2010 Mitsubishi i-Miev second hand last summer. Despite being a pre-production model used as part of a large UK test fleet into electric cars, her family plug-in still has what it takes to go the distance…

After a little over a year of driving, our iMiEV has quite definitely proven its worth. Despite a measly 60ish mile real-world range, our pre-first-generation Mitsubishi has racked up some pretty impressive feats.

A 240 mile round trip (in a weekend) to a friend’s wedding, a journey out to rural Dorset, in winter no less, and countless commutes, trips to the shops and visits to friends. And after that year, some things are still the same. The EV grin hasn’t faded for me, perhaps because I still drive a classic petrol car some of the time. So, as we are wafted along near silently by the iMiEV’s electric motor, I still revel in the peace and quiet. And it’s an infectious grin. We were tapped for a lift from the wedding, and the liftee’s excitement was tangible. Not only that, unlike when people travel in the back of one of our classic fleet, when she exited the iMiEV she expressed a desire to have an EV. Usually, after they’ve extricated themselves from the Minor or the Austin, people are clearly pleased to have had the experience, but not in a hurry to repeat it!

Rapid Charging at Wednesbury

Rapid Charging at Wednesbury, Midlands, UK.

Public charging still seems to place us as the supporting actresses to a minor celebrity. We pulled up at IKEA’s Wednesbury charger and my partner and I were asked by a succession of people the standard EV questions: How far does it go, How fast does it go, How long does it take to charge and How much does it cost to charge. Both my partner and I have become expert EV sales people because people are still fascinated by it. The mainstream media have, it seems, failed to answer the questions people really want answered. Perhaps because Top-Gear are too busy simulating what it’d be like if you ran out of charge to give people any idea of what it’s like when you don’t.

And we still occasionally play the lottery. I’ve always been notorious for running cars on fumes, and because we enjoy the peace and quiet we still push the iMiEV to its very limits. As we snuck back in to Bristol tonight, the iMiEV blinked its little turtle light at us and the range-remaining indicator flicked to all dashes. It wasn’t intentional, but the charger we wanted to use was closed, and the weather was hideous with headwinds all the way back from Birmingham.

But how does it feel a year on from our purchase, and how has the iMiEV performed. Well, the problem with writing a staff-car review for a car like the iMiEV is that we have, essentially, no real complaints.

The battery in the keyfob goes flat rather quickly, and perhaps in the production version it does something sensible, but in our iMiEV things just get a bit random. It’ll start flashing the hazard lights (but no in-vehicle indicators) while you’re travelling along the road. The battery-pack light will flick on and it’ll refuse to let you start the car for a few seconds while you faff around repositioning the keyfob in the car. All somewhat strange. But, now we have in our heads that when the chaos generator kicks in, you need a new battery in the keyfob, it’s no longer really a problem. It is mildly irritating that it doesn’t last a full year for the once-yearly service.

A more pressing irritation is that the heater really does suck power in an unnecessarily ridiculous way. Even just turning the fan on does hideous, hideous things to the range. Add in air-con or heating and you may as well just halve the range. It is, to be fair, a highly effective heater. It produces toasty warm or icy cool rapidly. But the technology in it is clearly well over the 4-years old of the car, and because the car lacks a heated (front) screen, as soon as autumn rains hit, you’re forced to use the fan even when it’s warm enough, leading to a rapid loss of range.

That mild irritation extends to the inability to not only remotely pre-heat the car, but also to use interior features with it plugged in at all. When we took our car down to Dorset in November, we resorted to pre-heating the car by sticking a fan-heater inside the car for a while, saving us the charge we’d use otherwise. It won’t let you turn the interior fan on at all with the car attached to a charging source. Part of this is no doubt because the car does use the aircon to provide thermal management for the batteries while charging, a feature which I suspect has prolonged the life of them. After a year of solid driving, in our four year old car, it’s range is still as it was when new. But that inability to use the aircon for anything else whilst its charging does niggle.

The first generation iMiEV dash is a model of simplicity

The first generation iMiEV dash is a model of simplicity

Despite these minor frustrations though it’s the simplicity of the car that delights us the most. It truly is a car you just get in and drive. From turning the ignition on to ‘READY’ is a few short seconds (unlike a lot of modern ICE-cars and modern EVs). It’s probably ready to roll in about the same time as our Morris 1000. And with the addition of our Type II adaptor (the pre-first edition car actually doesn’t support Type II charging) the ability to charge almost anywhere has proven invaluable. Days will go by without us charging at home because we’ve charged at a selection of locations around Bristol and Bath.

When people talk about EVs they often think of them as being a disruptive technology; which is true in the sense of its potential impact on, essentially, the oil industry. But in terms of its impact on your personal existence, it’s pretty much the opposite. Yes, it’s required a small change in habits, in that we now need to plug it in in the evening (sometimes), but in reality it’s just made our world a lot nicer. No more stops to fill up with petrol, no more setting off to work and suddenly realising that you forgot to fill up with petrol the day before, and a hell of a lot more quiet and comfortable journeys.

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