i-MiEV Range Comes Up Short in Test Drives

· · 10 years ago

Mitsubishi recently gave Cars.com the opportunity to do extensive testing on its forthcoming i-MiEV. The site is driving the i-MiEV around the Chicago area, gathering range data and formulating impressions about the power and handling of the electric. But despite being generally impressed with the car's ability to handle the demands of city driving, Cars.com encountered a problem that other testers of the vehicle have also complained about recently: the 80-100 miles of range that Mitsubishi claims drivers can expect from the car seems to correspond more to ideal conditions than normal use.

The Cars.com team says throughout their testing, the i-MiEV's range gauge never read much more than 50 miles on a full charge. To be fair, the vehicle that they were testing was a Japanese version of the car. Tweaks to the range display and calculation algorithm could make a difference, as could other changes that would cater the car more toward American roads and potentially effect range.

Still, Cars.com isn't the only media source to have questions about the true range of the i-MiEV. Car and Driver told readers to expect just 50 to 60 miles of range using "normal Yankee commuting patterns," and 70 if you're an experienced hypermiler. A writer from Popular Mechanics drove the vehicle 54 miles as part of a five-car caravan from San Francisco to Vacaville on the freeway. That reviewer was able to make the trip with a tiny bit of juice to spare, but another car in the caravan with two passengers reported "more perilous drains," and a team that missed an exit—adding a few extra miles to their trip—drained their battery completely.

This is an issue that isn't unique to the i-MiEV. All vehicles—be they battery or gas-powered—get varying levels of efficiency depending on how they're driven and how much air conditioning or heat is required by the driver. But as Chelsea Sexton and several other commenters asked on Plugincars.com two months ago, what kind of effect could carmakers promising electric ranges that they can't regularly deliver, have on the the public's perception of EVs?

Would Mitsubishi be better off telling customers that the i-MiEV gets 50 to 60 miles of range and letting them be pleasantly surprised when they consistently net 70 to 80? In the automotive reviews and the word-of-mouth campaigns that carmakers will rely on to grow the market for electric vehicles, isn't over-delivering on modest numbers better than consistently coming up short on loftier promises?

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