Want your electric car to have a three-diamond logo on the front? Mitsubishi will launch the U.S. version of its i MiEV (called the Mitsubishi “i” on these shores) in 2011, but they’ve rolled it out on display at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show. What works in Tokyo doesn’t necessarily work in the United States, so U.S. i models received a thorough reworking to meet federal crash standards and the preferences of U.S. customers. In Japan, the i MiEV is 134 inches long and 58 inches wide; for the U.S. market, it grows to 145 inches long and 63 inches wide. U.S. customers will get more amenities and safety features as well, including tire pressure monitoring, air conditioning, advanced airbags and electronic stability control.
When we’re talking about electric vehicles, bigger isn’t necessarily better. The upsizing of the i for the U.S. comes at a price: in the EU (which uses a different evaluation standard for measuring range), the i MiEV has an estimated range of 150 kilometers, or 93 miles. U.S. versions will get an estimated range of 50 to 80 miles, depending upon driving conditions and accessory items used. Crank up the heat, turn on the rear defrosted and heated seats, then mash the accelerator to the floor as you climb Colorado’s Eisenhower Pass in I-70, and you’ll be hard pressed to get 50 miles per charge. Draft a semi going down the pass, with lots of electricity producing regenerative braking, and you may even do even better than the EU rating. That’s really the problem with pure EVs: you never know exactly what your range will be, as it will vary with traffic, driving style and environmental conditions.
When the i is out of electrons, it can be recharged on household current, with a 240 volt Level 2 charger or with a “quick charge” Level 3 charger. Level 1 charging (on 110v service) takes about eight hours, with Level 2 taking about 4 hours and Level 3 about 30 minutes. Level 3 charging won’t completely charge the i’s batteries, but it will give about 80% capacity, or enough range for about 40 more miles.
Look for the i to go on sale here by the end of 2011. Mitsubishi is targeting a list price under $30,000 before any federal electric vehicle rebates, which could make the i the most attractively priced commuter EV.