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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Take that, Exxon!

I posted here not long ago about taking a ride in a friend's electric vehicle, and how attractive it was. Well, after some dithering, we took the plunge and ordered one for ourselves. It arrived late Tuesday and we have just finished Day 2 of owning/driving.  It's great!

The perfect car for someone like me who likes to dig into the numbers.  So, here are a few early insights:

- This is a Mitsubishi i MiEV (we call it the mee-EHV) and it is rated by EPA to have a 62-mile range and fuel economy of 112 mpge (miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent).  What does that mean?  Well, EPA figures 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity for the gallon of gasoline equivalent, so for that many kWh, the MiEV is supposed to travel 112 miles (as the saying goes, your mileage may vary).

- This means that the MiEV's battery "tank" only holds a bit over half a gallon of gasoline equivalent (62 divided by 112).  And it also means that the MiEV gets about 3.3 miles per kWh.  A kWh, in our neck of the woods, costs about 15 cents, so the cost per mile for fuel is 15/3.3 = 4.5 cents.  This compares with the cost of gas for the Honda Insight we traded in--$3.60 per gallon for 40 mpg, or 9 cents/mile.  And that's for a 40-mpg hybrid.

- The MiEV will also cost less to maintain, as it has a much less complicated motor (no oil changes). And I'm guessing that, as we focus on making it our main car for local driving, the wear and tear on our other auto, a Toyota Prius with just under 137,000 miles, will be drastically reduced.

As of Day 2, we've had five trips to town for meetings, work, etc.  We were able to take four of them with the EV, which has so far traveled 66 miles, leaving one for the Prius (18 miles).  I'm hopeful that over the long term, that ratio (close to 80% of local travel with the EV), can be maintained.

- 66 miles on the EV amounts to about 20 kWh, which is substantial--it's pretty clear that our total electricity bill is going to go up, perhaps nearly double, but that's because our previous usage was quite low.  At the same time, obviously, our gasoline spending is going to plummet.  Take that, Exxon!

OK, so enough geeky stuff.  

How does it look?  See above--you can be the judge.  I drove a VW Beetle for about 25 years, so a car's looks are not high on my list of required attributes.  

How does it handle?  Fine, drives like a normal car.  

What happens when you're merging onto a freeway and you need extra speed?  I think this is an interesting question, because I've been asked it a couple of times, in almost exactly the same words--evidently it is something that really preys on some drivers' minds.  Hasn't happened yet, but the pickup is quite good and ... I drove a Beetle for 25 years.

This post is already fairly long, so I'll leave it at that for now--I can provide more specifics about the transmission settings and gauges later.  We have a bare-bones version of the MiEV--to find out more about the deluxe version, see the excellent series of blog posts that begins here.

Other questions?  Ask away.


  1. Great, I have wanted to look into getting one as well. Where are there charging stations in the area? and can it be serviced by local dealers? Can I take a ride sometime?

  2. Nan, there are few if any charging stations in the area--Vermont Law School has one, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is planning to install a few. We are planning to not drive the car so far that it cannot be replenished overnight (10 hours) or over a couple of nights, so the longest round trip we are likely to take in it would be about 50 miles. Also, on the other hand, you can plug it into any 110-volt outlet, so there may be some opportunities to plug in elsewhere we haven't yet discovered.

    We don't know about local servicing yet--haven't dug that far into the manual. We do know that the dealer in Concord (Lovering Volvo/Mitsubishi) will service it with a flat $50 charge for transporting it.

    Yes, you can absolutely take a ride sometime. Contact me at tomgraywind on Gmail to arrange a time.

  3. Tom, what value are you taking as the carbon intensity of the electricity going into your MiEV? GMP's projected average emissions rate for 2013 is 395 lbs/MWh. (Lbs of CO2, I believe, rather than plain C.) (Source: email communication with GMP.) That's pretty low. My first thought here would be to use their average emission rate (if not a lower rate) since the bulk of your charging is likely to happen in the evening/night time, outside of peak demand hours. I'm assuming that non-peak hours are lower carbon for GMP than peak hours, as baseload suppliers like HydroQuebec are probably supplying the bulk of non-peak power.

    If my logic holds, does this alter your estimation of gasoline equivalency? This is all more directly relevant to your linked previous post about taking a test ride in a neighbor's MiEV.

    Keep us posted regarding performance in hot and cold weather!

  4. I'm looking forward to the EV that can get up my driveway during winter and mud season. Unfortunately, since I'm in the financial class that cannot by cars on a whim, I have to wait until an awd EV is affordable.

  5. Thanks, Ernie. Good point about the snow and mud--the EV's battery will be less efficient in cold weather. The cost to us, after sales discount and trade-in, was $12,000, which is being financed at 0%. Mitsubishi is apparently changing its "deal of the month" terms regularly, so it may be different for May.