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Is Britain ready for the electric car? We're not sure after living with a Mitsubishi i-MiEV
3 mins read
3 May 2010

Is Britain ready for the electric car? Colin Goodwin isn’t so sure after a week of living with a Mitsubishi i-MiEV.


The Mitsubishi i-MiEV arrives bang on 9am on a trailer; with Mitsubishi based in Cirencester, it wouldn’t make it to my place in Hampton under its own steam.

“How far will it go if I drive like a bank robber?” I ask delivery man Jason Scholes. “You’ll never get fewer than 50 miles out of a full battery,” comes the reply.

The i-MiEV’s maiden voyage will be to Alton, where I am doing a story for a newspaper. It’s about 30 miles, so if I drive like a nun I should be fine. Jason said that a sure way to croak the battery is to run the heater flat out, so I leave it off and stick to 50mph on the motorway.

By the time we get to Alton, though, despite some determined slipstreaming, the batteries are down to a quarter. Clearly I am not going to make it home.

The charging cable’s in the boot, but the only person I know in Alton is the ex-Mrs Goodwin, and I don’t fancy asking if I can add to her electricity bill. The only other person I can think of to call on is Gordon Murray, whose factory is nearby in Shalford.

See pictures from Goodwin's week with the i-MiEV


The Mivvy spent last night charging at Murray’s place. Not wanting me hanging around all night, Gordon lent me the company’s petrol Mitsubishi i. It’s nowhere near as good to drive as its electric brother, which even rides and steers better.

I’m busy aeroplane-building all day, so I can’t make it over to Gordon Murray Design until teatime. I drive back to Hampton in the dark and rain.

Oh dear, the instructions say you must plug the i-MiEV’s curly charging cable straight into a 13-amp socket. Luckily I manage to park right outside our terraced house, but I can’t get the car any nearer to the kitchen window. No choice but to risk an extension cable.It gets a bit hot near the plug end, so I don’t risk charging while I’m asleep, just in case the house catches fire.


Down to Andrew Frankel’s house in the Wye Valley for a discussion of Lola T70 chassis numbers and the career of Brian Redman. Not travelling by Mivvy, though, because the round trip would take at least three days. And Frankel’s quite sniffy about people turning up at his gaff in anything other than an air-cooled Porsche; he would explode if I rocked up in something that owes more to Michael Faraday than Hans Mezger.


Off to London for the day. London is the electric car’s natural habitat and, only 15 miles away, the perfect Mivvy commute. There are even on-street charging points, so there seems little danger of an unplanned overnight stay in the Ritz.

Except that you have to pre-register to use these points. I thought you just whirred up, plugged in and paid with a card.

We arrive in Berkeley Square with half our power left, but that’s cutting it a bit fine for the return leg. So it’s off to the Tesla showroom in Knightsbridge.

After 90 minutes of gratis electricity, six cups of coffee and a long chat, we’re homeward bound, making it back with enough range to take Mr Editor Hallett for a run around Teddington.


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Only local motoring today: an errand in nearby Isleworth and then collecting Steve Cropley for a pub lunch with friend and master Ferrari restorer Kevin O’Rourke.

When you’re sure you won’t run out of power, you can really enjoy the Mitsubishi. That’s why, as the week draws to a close, I’m confident that the electric car will be part of the future – but not the immediate future.

The range of the i-MiEV is hopeless. Yes, it’s designed for city driving, but that means living in the city itself, not the suburbs. You also need your own charging post outside your house to run one, which means having your own personal parking space. I don’t.

And then there’s the cost. The Mivvy is priced just under £40,000, for which you can get a very nice Porsche 993. Which will get to Wales and back, and will also impress Frankel no end.

Colin Goodwin

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3 May 2010

no surprises there then.

3 May 2010

Shame. I'm sure sometime soon someone is going to come along with a well priced electric alternative with a decent range, just not this time. Maybe the Leaf?

3 May 2010

Classy, lovin that Merc SL infront of it in the main pic

3 May 2010

I think electric cars with range extenders like the Chevrolet Volt are far better. Pure electric cars are just a waste of space. Useful for only on job, driving very short distances, and whilst you may do this regularly, you certainly dont do it all the time.

They may as well can the whole pure electric idea. If it doesnt have a range extending engine, very few people will take to it, except for the pure eco heads.

I wonder how much satisfaction one will be able to derive from seeing one of these out of juice at the side of the road........

3 May 2010

Yeah! Goodwin's right. Electric car isn't the future for now. The range is surely pathetic. It will improve , as technology develops but that might lead to an increase in cost also. So, internal combustion engines are still the better choice.

3 May 2010

The other issue is that more range means either more batteries (like the 500kg worth in the Tesla), or a battery that can hold more charge than those currently available.

At the moment it's a bit like a rocket, where most of the energy is just used to move the fuel itself around.

3 May 2010

Like any other category of vehicle, manufacturers will produce good, bad, and indifferent versions. I wouldn't want to rush to judgment on the basis of one.

3 May 2010

That's goodwins' too.

3 May 2010

maybe you could charge it by putting some electrodes in a potato. until electric cars have a range of at least 200 miles, they are completely useless. and good luck to all the greenies in recycling the toxic batteries. and if there's an emergency, what do you do if your batterys' flat. um... borrow your neighbours petrol car. and if everyone bought an electric car we would have build 10 new power stations.

3 May 2010

Probably unfair to judge all electrics on what is effectively an undeveloped prototype. It will be interesting to see whether incremental improvements in all the components will produce a practical electric car or whether it needs some quantam jump in the technology. Either way it now looks a good few years before they are more than an eco-gimmick.


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