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Old 10-06-2015, 08:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
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First Drive in an EV: i-MiEV Test Drive.

After objecting to some comments I made here:
http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthrea...ain-32850.html
User jray3 made the offer to let me burn some electrons in his i-MiEV. I took him up on the offer and we agreed to meet a couple days later. He indicated he'd be the "geek in the black 8 ball".

Sure enough, he shows up in his black egg-shaped car... with a big "8" on the roof. I suppose you gotta have a sense of humor with a car like this. We got in and he asked if I had any questions. Concerned about him having enough range to get back to work, my first question was about how much range he has. He smiled, clearly getting that question a lot, and said he had plenty of capacity and showed me on the dash where the range was indicated, then went into some of the controls. After a few more questions, we headed off.

First impression is that... well, it drives like a car. A quiet one, but not much different than any other car. The suspension was a bit harsh, but Jay mentioned that he had lowered the front and had the tire pressure up. Even without that, it would probably be overly firm. No real complaints though.

I played with the unusual settings on the PRNDL stick. "Eco" made the throttle feel very... reluctant. As Jay explained, this is very useful in the stop-n-go traffic we are often blessed with. "B" made motor braking (regeneration) very pronounced even without touching the brake pedal. Power seemed good, but going up a steep hill it was noticeably lacking when I changed lanes and tried to accelerate briskly. Presumably like most EVs, it's high torque masked the modest 63hp it is capable of. Jay also mentioned this is more noticeable on the freeway, but the last minute decision to try that out was foiled by the weird on ramps in the vicinity.

I headed back and parked the car. As we stepped out we were immediately asked by a passing gentleman, "What sort of range do you get in that?". I guess he does get that a lot...

So, it's not a bad little car. Would I buy one? Well... no. Its... comical... outward appearance would take a little getting used to. And I still stand by my comments that EVs have some big hurdles to overcome before gaining widespread popularity (range anxiety, battery life, time to recharge). My opinion of the i-MiEV is certainly higher than before I drove it though. I always though of them as a glorified golf cart, but it really is capable of being a decent commuter car.

Thanks Jay, for letting me letting me take your i-MiEV for a spin. Let me know if that Ghia needs it's legs stretched, I'd be happy to try that one too.

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Old 10-06-2015, 08:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Check out a Golf EV at a local dealership and see what you think. I've had a brief test drive in both the Leaf and Golf, and while the Leaf experience was good, the Golf just felt a little better. I'm not sure how it would compare to the Mitsu as I have yet to drive one.
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Old 10-06-2015, 10:01 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Does anyone in Arizona have an EV that I can insult and then test drive?

Some members put their fuel economy on the outside of their car. Unless you enjoy discussing this throughout the day, perhaps a stencil could come in handy.

Possibly, the range display is not adequately prominent.
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Old 10-06-2015, 10:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thank you Darcane! It was a pleasure to meetup with another ecomodder, and I'd encourage you all to do so, perhaps even without insulting each other's cars first!
Good buys on used i-MiEV are now down in the $6500 range, found on autotrader, allofcraigs and ebay. For my more detailed 'test drive' report, see InsideEvs I'm now at over 66000 iMiEV miles (traded the first silver car in after 21k miles to take advantage of clearance pricing and another tax credit). Rare are the opportunities to trade in an 18 month old car and come out ahead. Too bad for the dealer, the used EV market just hasn't materialized like it should. These cars have million mile motors, and battery pack rebuilds will only get better.
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Old 10-06-2015, 11:57 PM   #5 (permalink)
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$6500 you say? You've perked my interest. Basically an EV has to cost less than what I could get for selling my 2006 Acura TSX. The 20011 Leaf is down under $10k now, and I was thinking maybe in 2 years the 2013 would be similarly priced.

My parents live 66 miles away on a mostly freeway route where traffic averages 65 MPH in the slow lane. Could I make the trip comfortably in the MEV? I assume using headlights or AC/heater would affect my chances.
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Old 10-07-2015, 12:44 PM   #6 (permalink)
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66 miles at 65MPH is probably beyond what an i MiEV is capable of. It might be fine at ~40MPH getting that distance.
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Old 10-07-2015, 01:15 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks for the review Darcane!

The imiev is rated for 62 miles of range by the EPA. So, it doesn't have massively more range than a Volt, especially the 2nd gen.

However, its still on my list of cars to buy to replace the Metro.
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Old 10-07-2015, 01:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redpoint5 View Post
My parents live 66 miles away on a mostly freeway route where traffic averages 65 MPH in the slow lane. Could I make the trip comfortably in the MEV? I assume using headlights or AC/heater would affect my chances.
The longest highway trip I regularly make in a single charge is 54 miles, and when it's real cold I use 51 miles of surface streets to avoid a full discharge. For your 66 mile journey to be comfortable in winter without stopping, I'd recommend a LEAF. The iMiEV can out-distance a LEAF in city driving as it is much lighter with less rolling resistance, but the LEAF is more aerodynamic and has 50% more battery (but faster degradation), so it shines on the highway.

HOWEVER, Oregon is the land of DC fast charging, and a 10 minute boost at a DCFC station would put you over the top with no problem. Between Tacoma and Portland, an iMiEV and a LEAF have to hit the same 3 charging stations (Centralia, Castle Rock, Ridgefield), as a LEAF has trouble skipping over a stop on just 80% charge, but an i-MiEV takes 10 minutes less than a LEAF at each stop (19 to 21 minutes to 80% vs 30+ minutes). Leapfrog a LEAF between stations, and that 30 minute advantage becomes a one-hour difference due to the avoided wait! DCFC lineups have become common in WA because the DCFC installations have grown much slower than the EV population has. 2016 LEAFs should be able to skip every other station on the West Coast Electric Highway, but not reliably with the Gen1.

Lastly, the headlights and marker lights draw about 120W more than the daytime running lights, but the heater cycles on and off at 5000 W, so heating is the much bigger concern.

Cold climate iMiEVers (Russia, Poland, Quebec,... Wisconsin) are replacing their stock 12V lead acid battery with a little liquid-fueled heater (Webasto or Chinese imitations) plus a remote 12V lithium battery. I've run the numbers, and a reservoir of hot water is more valuable for cabin heating than added battery capacity, so I've got an old steel 5 gallon outboard motor gas tank and heating element to experiment with this winter. (Talk about upcycling!) A hot water reservoir is worth more heat than any other available material other than phase change paraffins (unless you burn fuel), and you can dump the water weight after it cools off if desired. Adding a hidden insulated reservoir to the stock heater loop would be the next step after proof-of-concept. That promises to automate the whole affair and eliminate a sloshing tank of hot water lashed to the floor! The iMiEV has a remote control and allows up to 30 minutes of pre-heat while still plugged in. It'll do that indefinitely with a manual remote reset every 30 minutes, but isn't available as a recurring schedule or smartphone app.
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Old 10-07-2015, 03:22 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jray3 View Post
Thank you Darcane! It was a pleasure to meetup with another ecomodder, and I'd encourage you all to do so, perhaps even without insulting each other's cars first!
It was a pleasure to meet you too. And interesting that we happen to know several of the same people.

To be fair, I didn't insult your car, it was more a general insult at all EVs. Er, wait... I don't know if that is any better.

In all seriousness, I meant no insult, just an observation of significant shortcomings of any battery operated car. There are ways to manage range anxiety, but you have to plan for it and, in general, people don't want to do that. I think this is a leading driver for the poor resale market on EVs.

Battery life is a significant issue too, but the i-MiEV seems to have less of an issue with it than the Leaf since the battery pack is cooled. Your car is a 2012 and it still indicates a full range, right? Leafs that can claim the same are certainly a minority.
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Old 10-07-2015, 04:23 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Absolutely- no insult taken, and my response was certainly more strenuous than your post that started all of this anyway!

Yes, I believe that the iMiEV battery is of a superior design to the LEAF, though of much less initial capacity (16 kWh nominal, 13 usable vs 24 kWh nominal, 21.8 useable kWh in a LEAF). My car shows no measurable degradation after 45,000 miles. However, when I first bought it I didn't know about the 20% reserve capacity that's built "into the turtle" or 'below zero' on the gauge that was designed as a buffer to offset capacity degradation during the warranty period. It still shows 81 miles RR on a warm summer morning after sedate driving the day before. The 50 a/h prismatic cells in series are easier to keep in balance than the LEAF's small series/parallel pouches, easier to do single cell replacements on, and more feasible to do DIY pack rebuilds on in the future with cells from other suppliers.

The main shortcoming, besides no upgrades in capacity since release, is that the pack will fill with water if you ford a stream deeper than 19" (via the cooling ducts). However, you're likely to have other problems by that point......

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