Mitsubishi Recalls i-MiEV For Faulty Brakes

By · January 24, 2013

MitsubishiiMiEV

Mitsubishi has issued a global recall of the i-MiEV due to problems related to the car's braking system. The i-MiEV has struggled to find an audience, especially here in the U.S., where only 688 were sold in all of 2012.

Problems continue to mount for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, with news that the Japanese automaker’s electric-powered sedan is being recalled due to a flaw with its braking system. The problem has been traced to an electrical pump that feeds air to the brake booster. Should the pump malfunction, it would take considerably more force on the brake pedal to bring the car to a stop, and stopping distances would subsequently be far greater than normal.

With 14,700 vehicles affected globally, the total number of cars being recalled by Mitsubishi is relatively small. However, the figure represents approximately half of all the i-MiEV EVs sold around the world. The jellybean-shaped Mitsubishi, marketed stateside as the “i”, has been a notable flop in the electric car market. In 2012, a year when Nissan found roughly 10,000 buyers for its LEAF 5-door, sales of the Mitsubishi i didn’t crack 700 units in the U.S.

Bigger issues than a recall

The sales problem has much more to do with the everyday usability of the i-MiEV, versus this recent recall over a flawed pump. For starters, driving range lags far behind the competition. Mitsubishi quotes overall driving range on a full charge at around 62 miles—though even PlugInCars.com contributors have seen real-world results that are only half of this estimate. And despite Mitsubishi pricing this quirky-looking EV far below its rivals, most notably the Nissan LEAF, the ride quality, cabin materials, and driving comfort of the i-MiEV are routinely criticized as being too crude and unrefined.

Even Mitsubishi appears to be turning away from the i-MiEV, as the company has recently focused more of its attention on plug-in hybrids, such as the upcoming Outlander PHEV. Powered by two electric motors coupled to a 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder engine, Mitsubishi has promised its plug-in SUV will have an electric driving range of 37 miles. North American sales of the Outlander PHEV are scheduled to begin in 2014, with a starting price estimated in the region of $35,000 (including Federal and state incentives).

Comments

· · 1 year ago

Nick, regarding this comment:

"North American sales of the Outlander PHEV are scheduled to begin in 2014, with a starting price estimated in the region of $35,000 (including Federal and state incentives)."

I hope you're right! Can you comment on how you got this number? Is this speculation at this point or do you have some insider info? Just curious.

· · 1 year ago

We're just at the time period where we are waiting for a greater value in batteries. Electricity is currently favorable to gasoline or even Diesel. I'm not super worried about their brake pump problem as it seems it will be easily and totally rectified for good.

· · 1 year ago

In 2011 15 million vehicles were recalled in the US. In 2010 20 million. Recalls are standard stuff. Yes brakes are important but I'm not aware of any injuries having taken place. Not much of a story here except that its an electric vehicle. Any hiccup with an EV becomes big news for some reason.

· · 1 year ago

Hi Joule Thief.
I based my information on previous articles written about the Outlander PHEV here at PlugInCars.com. Though even without any inside knowledge, it's fairly easy to speculate where Mitsubishi will want to position the vehicle in terms of price. It won't undercut a Nissan Leaf, though it should be able to stay competitive with similar plug-in hybrids like the Volt, C-Max etc. The key thing a lot of people are asking: will Mitsubishi still be in the U.S. when the Outlander PHEV is launched? That's much less clear, considering their sluggish sales and small size. Suzuki is now gone, and buzz at the Detroit auto show was that Mitsu could follow them. I hope not, if only because I think variety breeds competition and better vehicles. I don't need the car world to turn into a one-stop-shop.
Thanks for commenting!!
Nick K.

· · 1 year ago

"Mitsubishi quotes overall driving range on a full charge at around 62 miles—though even PlugInCars.com contributors have seen real-world results that are only half of this estimate." I get it - journalists have contempt for the i-MiEV's bare-bones approach and never miss a chance to take a swipe, but this is absolutely absurd. 62 miles is the EPA calculation for mixed city/highway driving range, not a figure "quoted" (which in this context seems to imply "unjustifiably claimed") by Mitsubishi. Driven around town without winter heating (an Achilles heel for ALL EVs so far - we'll see how much Nissan's "hybrid heating" can help when it's really cold), any i-MiEV will blow that range away.

As for your "contributors", if in fact they claim they can't get 35 miles out of a fully charged i-MiEV while driving uphill with the heat on MAX (and if you want to call that "real world", maybe you should load a bag or two of cement in back to make it more real), you need to stop accepting their contributions, because they're pathological liars. Or perhaps you don't know what half of 62 is.

I really resent the way the press has treated this serious effort at producing an efficient, convenient, comfortable, and cost-effective EV for the mass market. However Mitsubishi corporate leadership may have mishandled the marketing of this unique vehicle in the U.S., it's no justification for the ongoing distortions and misrepresentations about the car. Story after story understates its range, available space, price advantage, and suitability for its intended purpose. But I guess everyone's getting their wish - it should be gone soon enough. Then we can ooh and ah over the wonders of the Smart Electric, which somehow garners more praise while being, as far as I can tell, worse in every way but the one factor that everyone dismisses when the i-MiEV is the subject - price.

· · 1 year ago

Well said, vike1108. While I might not agree that the i is the perfect solution, far too much of the mainstream auto press is enamored with things like leather seats and electro-gadgetry in the cabin. Stripped down entry level trim cars are typically snubbed by professional reviewers and, unfortunately, a large percentage of prospective EV buyers here in the US seem to put undo emphasis on this sort of thing. In defense of the typical Plug In Cars contributor, though, not all of us make 110 daily work commutes and insist on driving 80 mph in rush hour traffic to get there, only to complain that today's non-Tesla EV can't keep up.

I was in the back seat of an i (my 6'3" frame didn't feel excessively compromised during the experience) for a 66 mile round trip freeway jaunt, with a Level 2 charge at the half way point. The driver didn't have to baby the car to keep it at the freeway speed limit, nor was there frantic range anxiety issues anywhere along the way. Granted, it was shirtsleeve weather, but the car was hauling 3 adults and an assortment of day gear.

My problems with the i - and the Smart, for that matter - is that they are straddled some of the ugliest, bumpiest exterior sheet metal imaginable. There is such a thing as a tiny utilitarian car that doesn't look terrible. Unfortunately, no manufacturer has yet to step up to the plate and put an electric motor in one, or at least offer one for general sale. Much like the late 1950s, when bulbous fenders were awkwardly spawning tailfins and there was enough chrome on the oversize bumpers to bankrupt a small African nation, we're in the middle of a decidedly ugly car era. It's as if all industrial designers currently drawing paychecks have forgotten how to draw straight lines and transition them into subtle curves. Other here will correctly note that basic aerodynamics are largely ignored in modern car design, at the expanse of both aesthetics and potentially increased range that any EV can use.

On a more practical level, one reason that the Smart might be getting so much positive attention at the expense of the i is because of the thermal management system for the battery . . . or, more specifically, the lack of one in both the Leaf and the i. Every other current or announced up-and-coming OEM EV has a liquid thermal management system for the pack. It's certainly a concern with cold weather drivers, who will want a heated battery for the best possible range. But it's even more critical in hot climates, where a hot battery will prematurely age and loose capacity far sooner than it would otherwise.

· · 1 year ago

It is still a bit unclear if this brake recall affects the i - the US version of the iMiEV. My father took his in to the dealer and they did software updates but they did not know anything about the brake recall. My father asked specifically about the brakes, because I had told them about this recall, but the dealer did not have a recall notice on the brakes.

As to the other tangential topics - all electric cars need to address several issues related to efficiency. The main one that could cut the energy consumption significantly all the time is improved aerodynamic drag - this is the most crucial thing that all cars could improve, but it affects EV's even more because of the limits of battery capacity. In my opinion, when a car is aerodynamically low drag, it also looks good - form follows function.

A secondary issue is the efficiency is heat for the defroster and the people, and to a slightly lesser extent the efficiency of the cooling for the people in the car. We need to bring back direct heating defrosters, and heated seats should be standard; as well as power plugs for heated vests for each person in the car. Cars should be thermally insulated, so they are easier to heat and to cool.

Neil

· · 1 year ago

Some excellent points made here. I should note that I'd never ask anyone to agree that the i-MiEV is the perfect solution - I just ask that its trade-offs be evaluated fairly. I liked the Leaf a lot when I drove it, and it's unquestionably a more spacious and comfortable car (my wife certainly preferred it from the passenger seat). But I found the i-MiEV more fun to move through traffic and a better value for me. Even now with the car teetering on abandonment (still fingers crossed on that one), my feeling is less worried about being orphaned and more happy I got what I wanted while it was available.

It's not correct to equate the Leaf and the i-MiEV in terms of thermal management. The Leaf has either no thermal management or passive cooling, depending on how you want to spin it, but the i-MiEV uses true forced air heating and cooling, plus a cold-weather battery warming system in some packages (mine included). For its size and space, that's not necessarily inferior to, and certainly more cost effective than, liquid-based thermal management.

Styling and aerodynamics are worthy of discussion, but I think in the case of the i-MiEV, both are heavily influenced by the the constraints of the Kei car rules and an attempt to maximize the available space within those constraints. Appearance is subjective, but in any case secondary to the required functionality. Aerodynamics is a more complicated matter, but I think here again, Mitsubishi was far more concerned with space efficiency than routing air flows, especially since the car is not intended for long-haul freeway cruising. Aerodynamics just don't matter much in 0-35mph stop and go traffic.

I strongly agree with Neil's comments about HVAC. Why all EV makers didn't go with hybrid heaters to start with is beyond me - in moderate climates, a heat pump can probably do the job all by itself for all but the dead of winter, especially with cabin pre-conditioning, and incremental costs shouldn't have been all that great since it would also handle A/C duties. Not heating the front passenger seat was ridiculous, I really don't understand it, but I don't think the rear seats would be worth the bother (and it would be a lot of bother, considering the minimal structure of those seats as they stand). But the biggest beef I have is with cabin insulation - the i-MiEV has none at all, losing heat like a sieve right through the roof and doors. As has been observed in some modification discussions, quite a bit of heat is wasted just by failing to insulate the heater itself. None of that matters with all the waste heat generated by ICE, but it's deadly when you need to pay for every BTU with diminished range.

· · 1 year ago

The iMiEV was designed for an island the size of California, with more than three times the population, a bullet train, and +$7/gallon gas. In JDM spec, it had range on par with the LEAF, and the best EV efficiency in production. NHTSA homologation (fatter, longer, and heavier) without a commensurate increase in battery size, doomed its performance, and a price above $25k it’s appeal. A slow on-board charger and M.I.A. CHAdeMO quick chargers exacerbated puny range.

The distilled essence of aerodynamic efficiency, space utilization, and utility, its shape was spot on. In our world of edgy fashion, aggressive image, and bigger is better marketing, it could not compete. The Outlander PHEV an SUV, should be less traumatizing to the US market.

· · 1 year ago

@vike1108 I know exactly the review(s) on this site you're talking about. I think I'm going to block this site from my Google search results for posting that s--t. For a site that's supposed to promote EVs, it sure does a piss-poor job of doing so.

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