Mitsubishi i Review [VIDEO]: A Quirky, Affordable EV

Mitsubishi’s electric vehicle came to the United States officially late last fall in West Coast markets, and has been rolling into more areas around the country since then, presenting itself as the most affordable of the new wave of EVs.

It’s not precisely the same car that’s been on the roads in Europe and Japan for a few years. For one thing, Mitsubishi in its marketing is simply calling the car the “Mitsubishi i,” not the i-Miev. More significantly, in a nod to our great American girth, Mitsubishi made the American version a little more spacious, growing it by eight inches in length and four inches in width.

This gives the car a funny look, which is only exacerbated by its skinny wheels. And out on the road, the i definitely feels like a vehicle meant for quick jogs around town. You can take it on the freeway, but past 55 mph it begins to feel a little shaky (and range begins to drop).

Still, driving a 2012 i SE we generally found it to perform well, and we got plenty of thumbs-up gestures and “Cool!” exclamations tooling around green-friendly Portland.

image via Pete Danko/EarthTechling

And you really can’t beat the price for an EV that can seat a small family: The Mitsubishi i electric can be had for just a shade under $30,000 for the ES version without the premium package our car had, making it about $6,000 less expensive than the Nissan Leaf and at least $10,000 cheaper than the Ford Focus Electric. True, $30,000 is a pretty hefty price tag for a car that has some limiting characteristics, but a $7,500 federal tax credit takes a nice chunk out of that, and some states have incentives, as well. California, for example, offers a $2,000 rebate, and in EarthTechling’s home state of Oregon, there’s a rebate of up to $750 available on the purchase of battery electrics.

mitsubishi i

image via Pete Danko/EarthTechling

When you look at the sticker on Mitsubishi i the big number you’re going to see from the Environmental Protection Agency is 112. This is for a concept called MPG-equivalent, or MPGe. It’s the agency’s calculation of how far a car will go using the amount of energy contained in one gallon of gasoline. That number might not have much meaning to prospective drivers, however, who will probably be interested in how far the vehicle will travel on a charge, and how much will it cost to charge the vehicle. On that count, the EPA puts the i’s range at 62 miles with its 16 kilowatt-hour battery. Still, what an individual driver gets is going to be highly variable, depending on how the car is driven. Running the AC or the heater will eat up power, for instance.

Finally, the EPA estimates that driving the Mitsubishi I Electric 15,000 miles a year, you’ll spend about $550 on fuel – that’s a hefty $2,000 less than what you’d pay to put gas in a standard car.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.