Mitsubishi i-MiEV: third report

Is driving from London to Orkney realistic in an electric car? Our intrepid reporter weighs up the options...

  • Impressive steering lock gives the i-MiEV the turning circle of a London taxi. This comes in very handy in a city where making a timely U-turn can mean the difference between sitting for hours in traffic or getting home in time for tea. It also makes parking the tiny machine an absolute doddle.
  • Having the motor mounted above the rear axle eats into boot space, which means the i-MiEV isn’t great for carrying luggage. To make matters worse, the lack of a parcel shelf leaves your valuables on show – an oversight in a car designed to spend most of its time in urban areas.

I’ve been running the Mitsubishi i-MiEV since the beginning of July to see what it’s like to live with an electric vehicle as your only car.

So when I fancied a week’s diving among the World War I wrecks of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, some serious planning was required, as 667 miles would be no mean feat in an i-MiEV.

For starters, past experience has taught me you have to stay under 50mph to get anywhere near the claimed 93-mile range. And even if I achieved this figure, I still faced having to stop seven times en route to recharge. Considering all this, the journey would take at least two-and-a-half days!

And with only five days’ holiday booked off work, as soon as I arrived I’d have to turn round and come home again. This was a problem.

So, too, was the fact I could find only one charging point on the 278-mile stretch between Glasgow and the ferry terminal in Scrabster. So I didn’t go by i-MiEV. I took a Jaguar XJL instead.

Yes, I know I’m supposed to be running the Mitsubishi as my only vehicle. But if you check Issue 1,175, you’ll see my ‘get out of jail free’ card – I’m allowed to drive other cars so long as they’re part of a review. And I decided a gruelling 1,334-mile road test was the only way to properly evaluate the Jag.

Admittedly, this bending of the very rules I created would make even an Italian politician blush. However, had I not been combining work with pleasure, like most normal people I wouldn’t dream of driving all the way to the tip of Scotland. I’d have gone by plane. And the i-MiEV can get to Gatwick Airport and back to my west London flat again on a single charge. Just.

With flights priced about £200 for a return ticket, £51 parking for the week and £2 for a full charge of electricity, the total travel costs for the trip would have been £253. Mind you, that’s still £29 more than the long-wheelbase XJ cost me in diesel.

Mitsubishi doesn’t try to pretend the i-MiEV is anything other than a city car, though. And on my day-to-day commute it’s just fine.

Okay, so the ride is quite choppy, but the zippy nature and the tranquility of the near-silent electric motor make up for this. So does the fact that it’s cost me absolutely nothing to run for the past three months. In fact, the i-MiEV has actually saved me a fair amount of money.

A car park near the Auto Express office gives a 50 per cent discount on electric vehicles and even lets you charge them for free. What’s more, I’ve not had to pay the London congestion charge each of the 37 times I’ve driven the Mitsubishi into the dreaded zone.

All this adds up to £745 still in my pocket, which I now plan to spend on another holiday. However, if I want to take the i-MiEV it will have to be a city break… in London. 

Extra Info

“The best thing about the i-MiEV is that it drives like a conventional automatic car. Compact dimensions and nippy performance make it great in town, where it’s easy to drive. My two sons loved the interior, but they didn’t have to drive it! The reflection of the optional beige dashboard in the windscreen ruins your vision.”

Darren Wilson, Art Director

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