The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is the first zero emission, highway-capable car to be available commercially in Canada.
BC Hydro and the City of Vancouver are working together with Mitsubishi Canada to evaluate and prepare the city’s electric infrastructure to support plug-in vehicles. In November 2009, BC Hydro added two i-MiEVs to their fleet, and recently, I was lucky enough to be taken along for a test drive. The i-MiEV, which stands for “Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle,” is a right-hand drive, four-door car that looks like a cross between a Toyota Echo Hatchback and a Smart Fortwo. It’s powered by a 16kWh Lithium-ion battery, which takes 14 hours for a full charge on a 100-volt domestic outlet.
Although people often praise an electric car, they don’t fully consider what that means: the lack of a gasoline engine means that the i-MiEV is eerily silent. When stopped at a traffic light, the car made no discernable noise at all, and when it was moving, there was just a slight whirring sound. It accelerated fast, and if there were gears, I didn’t feel them shifting as we negotiated the hills of Westwood Plateau in Coquitlam. Due to its low centre of gravity and long wheelbase, the i-MiEV also turned corners beautifully.
While the cost of driving is dramatically lower, almost one third of the amount spent on a comparable gasoline vehicle, prospective buyers may shy away because of the estimated $50,000 price tag. Before the City of Vancouver, BC Hydro and Mitsubishi Canada get too excited about electric cars, they need to consider how to make them affordable to Vancouverites. Sure, the long-term benefits are evident, but many buyers aren’t likely to fork out $50,000 for a car that – frankly – looks like it costs $20,000, and requires recharging after only 120 km of driving.