Mitsubishi i-MiEV: Final report

After four months with our first-ever electric car, do the sums add up?

  • For only £2,000 more than the i-MiEV, you could have the much more practical Nissan Leaf EV. However, the limited range means both cars are only really suitable for town use. And in this respect the Mitsubishi, with its higher driving position, narrower body and superior visibility, is a better city driving choice.
  • The Kenwood multimedia system option is confusing and its radio prone to interference. There you are, listening to Radio 4’s John Humphrys administering a good tongue-lashing to a hapless MP, when suddenly: “Boo!” Pirate FM interrupts with a two-second burst of drum and bass.

It's time to say goodbye to our Mitsubishi i-MiEV, so I’ve been doing some sums. In an Auto Express landmark moment, the little electric vehicle is the first long-term test car to have cost us absolutely nothing to run. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Actually, it’s saved us money: a total of £1,240, according to my maths. 

There’s the £740 we haven’t had to pay for the 74 days it has been driven into London’s Congestion Charge zone, while our local car park’s half-price season ticket discount incentive for electric cars saved us a further £500.

The site also provides free charging, which means we haven’t forked out for fuel once – another Auto Express first – although at around £2 for a full charge, this wouldn’t have been much anyway.

So the Mitsubishi appears to make great financial sense. But let’s look at things objectively. The car costs £24,000 to buy, even after a £5,000 Government grant, which is a big leap of faith for anyone to take on such new technology.

There is a solution, though: lease one. You can rent the eco-friendly i-MiEV over three years for an initial outlay of £2,520 and then £420 a month thereafter. This averages out at £5,720 a year – a lot less than a first-class annual train ticket from, say, Reading, Berks, to London. And you don’t have to sit next to a stranger!

But why not simply get a super-efficient diesel, such as the SEAT Ibiza E Ecomotive, instead? It, too, is exempt from the Congestion Charge – as well as road tax – and a three-year lease costs half as much as one for the i-MiEV.

I appreciate that all these figures are making this article feel a bit like double mathematics, but please bear with me one last time. Based on my calculations, to recoup the difference in price through the Mitsubishi’s slightly lower running costs over a 36-month rental period, you would have to do 145,912 miles. And good luck with that! While you can go from Lands End to John O’Groats without refuelling in the SEAT, the i-MiEV’s limited range won’t even get you past Dartmoor.

Really, unless all the planets are perfectly aligned in terms of your personal circumstances – commuting distance, free or discounted parking, nearby charging facilities – the sums aren’t likely to add up. Fortunately, for me they did… for a while.

Initially, when the i-MiEV arrived I pledged to run it as my only vehicle to see if EVs really are a viable alternative to a conventional car. For the first three months I succeeded, but a recent change of work commitments has required a vehicle that can travel further than 45 miles from a charging socket.

This point was rammed home when the Mitsubishi was collected from our office in a box trailer... it simply wouldn’t have reached its destination otherwise.

So, will I miss the i-MiEV now it’s gone? Yes, very much. I enjoyed the electric motor’s near-silence and rapid responses, while the exclusive matt paint made the car look out of this world. But the best bit was that it felt like I was driving the future.

It’s just a shame the lack of infrastructure means that, for the time being, most of us have no alternative other than to live in the past.

Extra Info

“Mat’s right; for the vast majority of motorists the i-MiEV won’t make sense. But if it does, it’s easy to see the appeal of not having to visit a petrol forecourt ever again...”

Ross Pinnock, road test editor

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