Mitsubishi i-MiEV: Second report

Long drive to Silverstone in electric baby gives our man a range anxiety attack

  • Our i-MiEV’s £2,500 matt black bodywrap has divided opinion. Some think it looks stupid; others, like me, love it. What isn’t in dispute is how practical it is. Over the two months I’ve been running the Mitsubishi, not once have I visited a car wash – all you need to remove dirt from the surface is a bit of kitchen roll.
  • Unless you have a garage, charging the i-MiEV at home is pretty much impossible, because the lead supplied by Mitsubishi is only five metres long. What’s more, it’s not designed to be used with an extension cable – because doing so could cause a fire. With this in mind, why didn’t Mitsubishi simply think to develop a longer charging cable?

Most people wouldn’t think twice about a 130-mile round trip from London to Silverstone, Northants – especially when there’s a track day involved. But then, most people don’t drive an electric car, because such a journey requires as much planning as an expedition to the North Pole. It can be just as nail- biting, too, and there’s always a chance you may need rescuing by a man with a car transporter.

I’ve been running our long-term Mitsubishi i-MiEV as my only vehicle for the past two months. And an invite to a Renaultsport track day was the perfect opportunity to see how it copes with longer journeys.

As the round trip was 130 miles – 40 more than the car’s official range – I knew I’d have to find somewhere to recharge it. After two hours’ research on the Internet, I decided there were no suitable places en-route, so chanced my arm and called Silverstone to see if anyone there could help. I was offered the use of a socket in a pit garage.

I started the journey from my west London home, but couldn’t top up the batteries before leaving, as I live in a flat. Still, the remaining range of 76 miles should have been more than sufficient for the 65-mile route, which I had mapped out to avoid motorways – for every mile you travel at over 60mph, the i-MiEV’s range drops by three miles.

Yet, despite driving so slowly that the only cars I overtook were parked, I still only made it by the skin of my teeth. In fact, as I rolled over the threshold of the pit garage, the battery meter was so empty it no longer bothered to flash. Range anxiety? Let’s just say it wasn’t only the fact I’d switched off the air-con to conserve power that was making me sweaty.

The journey had taken more than twice as long as anticipated, too, which meant I missed out on most of my track time. I also had to hang around for hours after everyone else had left to charge the i-MiEV. Once again, I only just made it to my destination on the return journey. However, despite all this, I wasn’t once mad at the i-MiEV.

It’s been an absolute dream in the place where it’s designed to be used: the city. What I was annoyed at, however, was the Government. Where were all the rapid-charging points we’ve heard about? Even one, somewhere in the vicinity of my route, would have helped.

Until there is some real investment in infrastructure, anyone who buys an electric car has to accept that, at some point, they may need to be rescued by a man with a trailer.

Extra Info

“I wish I shared Mat’s enthusiasm for the i-MiEV. The outdated driving dynamics, poor ride and cramped cabin count against it. If you want an EV, the Nissan Leaf makes more sense.”

James Disdale, Deputy Road Test Editor

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