Why this little electric car is the smartest choice.
Meet the i-MiEV. A five-door hatchback, fully electric car produced by Mitsubishi Motors. With this electric vehicle, you’ll reduce your environmental footprint—and, best of all, you’ll never have to visit a gas station again (unless it’s for a pack of gum).
Electric vehicles are a relatively new concept in the automobile industry, but we are starting to see more and more electric and hybrid cars on the streets these days. According to CAA, there are seven brands of fully electric vehicles available to purchase in Canada, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is one of them. This month, Bento Box visited Mitsubishi Motors in Mississauga and asked Mr. Shawn Bryan, EV manager of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada, about the electric car’s benefits that conventional combustion-engine-only vehicles just can’t offer, as well as the challenges facing this eco-friendly technology.
Bento Box: Can you give us the basic run-down of the i-MiEV?
Mr. Bryan: This is the first electric vehicle that Mitsubishi has offered in Canada. Full electric. And it can travel up to 155 kilometres on a full charge, under ideal conditions. You might’ve noticed I said “under ideal conditions”; this is because the heating system and air conditioning also run off of the drive battery. So, if you have the heater on or the air conditioning on, or if you are a very aggressive driver, you will not get the full 155 km.
BB: So, the i-MiEV is more suited for commuting, running errands and casual driving in and around town?
It is designed for an urban community and is very, very efficient in stop-and-go driving in the city. The i-MiEV is highway capable and can go up to 130 km/hour, so it is not restricted to city streets. Yet it is more efficient in stop-and-go driving and for short commutes. Whereas an internal combustion engine vehicle is the opposite of that. An internal combustion engine vehicle is more efficient on the highway and over long distances than it is for stop-and-go driving. So, that makes the i-MiEV an ideal urban commuting vehicle.
BB: What are the advantages of driving an electric vehicle?
In the province of Ontario, when you license the vehicle, you can license it with a green-lettered plate as opposed to a blue-lettered plate. When you have a green-lettered plate on a full electric vehicle, or on a plug-in hybrid, it allows you to be a single occupant in a vehicle and still use a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. Also, some parking lots [for instance, at stores like IKEA] offer priority parking [for hybrids and fuel-efficient cars]. The Ontario government is also trying to promote the sale of electric vehicles to cut down on [the use of regular vehicles].
BB: How environmentally friendly are electric cars? What level of greenhouse gas emissions does the i-MiEV create?
Zero! No engine, no tailpipe, so zero emissions while driving.
This subcompact car is the most affordable four-seat electric car sold in Canada. It may look small, but with tires positioned for maximum cabin space, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how roomy it actually is inside.
BB: That sounds great! But how about the price tag?
The manufacturer’s suggested price on the 2016 i-MiEV is $27,998. The Ontario government, as I said before, is trying to promote the use of electric vehicles on Ontario roads, so the government is offering an incentive for people to purchase electric vehicles. The incentive is based on the size of the battery, and currently it is $8,231. (The battery of the i-MiEV is lithium-ion and 16 kilowatts.) So, if you were to go to the authorized Mitsubishi i-MiEV dealer, you can drive out for a low $20,000. This is for the semi-compact car that you never have to take to the gas station—unless you want a car wash or a pack of gum—and you only have to service it once a year (at a certified i-MiEV dealer). So, two more advantages: no cost for gasoline, and very, very low maintenance costs. Very economical to run.
BB: Instead of visiting gas stations, drivers will have to charge the car. How difficult is this?
There are three ways to charge the i-MiEV. We have all three options here at Mitsubishi Motors and we are offering them free of charge to all electric models, not just Mitsubishi-made models. But everybody definitely has the first one. It is your wall outlet plug. The one everybody has in the house or on the side of the garage.
BB: Is 110V enough to charge a car?
This is called level one charging. And, if the vehicle is empty of energy, if you plug it in and recharge just by plugging it into the wall, it will take 22 hours to recharge to full. We realize that this is a long period of time, but, if you know more energy can be pulled out of the wall socket, [you can push a button, increase the amperage and cut the charging time] from 22 hours down to 14 hours. But as a consumer and as a homeowner, you’ll need to make sure that the wall outlet can have [that amount of] energy coming out of it.
The second way, level two, is 240V charging. [A 240V plug] is what your clothes dryer is run out of. And if you charge the i-MiEV at 240V, from empty to full, we can reduce the charge time down to seven hours. Now we are talking about something that happens overnight. In Ontario right now, [the cost on your electricity bill for] off-peak hours [7 pm to 7 am] is 12 cents per kilowatt hour. That means the cost of recharging the i-MiEV to full capacity is less than two dollars. The benefits of driving electric cars are getting clearer to the people who have decided to switch.
BB: Is there any quicker way to charge the i-MiEV?
Yes, there is the third way to charge the i-MiEV, and it is called DC quick charge, DC stands for Direct Current. If you plug the i-MiEV into a DC charger, there is 440V, pretty much double what level two was, and this can charge the i-MiEV from zero to 80 per cent in less than 30 minutes. Our record here at the office is 26 minutes. The reason why I only said 80 per cent, not 100 per cent, is that on the DC quick charge, so much energy goes into the battery and this creates lots of heat. If we let it go all the way to 100 per cent, it will damage the battery. So, we capped it at 80 per cent. The DC quick charger knows when the i-MiEV is at 80 per cent, and shuts off. Then, we can change the quick charger from 440V, by pressing a button, to a lowered-down 240V, and you can charge the remaining 20 per cent at 240V.
With its smooth and quiet ride, the i-MiEV provides an incredible driving experience.
BB: Is it easy to find a charging station when you are on the road?
Yes! There is an app called PlugShare. [With this app,] you can check for the nearest charger. What PlugShare does is show the GPS location of the charging stations across North America. DC quick chargers are little more expensive to install, so level two chargers are most often found, especially in Quebec. Rona hardware stores, Metro grocery stores and St. Hubert chicken restaurants all have level two chargers. More and more level two chargers are popping up all the time. Some are level one—it might be somebody’s home. If I own an electric car, then I can invite [the driver] in for a coffee while offering a charge.
BB: How long does the battery usually last?
The warranty of the i-MiEV battery is eight years. So if anything happens to the battery, we will replace it free of charge under warranty. There have been some concerns in the general public about battery degradation. But since December of 2011, when we started selling the i-MiEV in Canada, as far as I know we haven’t have any battery degradation issues. The battery is in its own protective packaging that doesn’t allow any water in, and doesn’t allow any dirt or debris in the unit. If the vehicle is ever involved in an accident, it is very well protected.
BB: Lastly, we would like to know: what are the challenges of making electric cars?
All car manufacturers who offer full electric or plug-in hybrids are governed by the battery technology. If there was a breakthrough in battery technology tomorrow, all car manufacturers would embrace the new technology. We want batteries that are lighter, smaller and more energy-dense. The advantages [of a lighter battery] are that weight takes away from driving distance, so obviously we want batteries lighter, [and we want them to be] smaller because we want more room for people and cargo. And [more energy-dense batteries would mean we could] improve upon the maximum distance of the i-MiEV. If you could get a lighter, smaller and more energy-dense battery, then that will be an advancement. Not only for the i-MiEV, but also for the entire industry.
BB: And, hopefully, it will continue to get cheaper?
The i-MiEV was introduced for $32,995 originally. We have reduced that down to $27,998. We can see the vehicle [becoming] more palatable or accessible to the general population who want to drive electric.
So … would you like to go and test drive the i-MiEV?
Mitsubishi EV manager Shawn Bryan and marketing specialist Naoko Mongeon.